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DWISuffolk County DWI

In Suffolk County, an alcohol related driving offense can be a violation, a misdemeanor or a felony.

Driving While Intoxicated ( DWI) involves operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher. It’s important to note that a motorist can be charged with driving while intoxicated regardless of whether the arresting officer is able to obtain a blood alcohol level, such as in the case where a motorist refuses to submit to a breath test or provide a blood test. In this situation, the police may charge the driver with driving while intoxicated based on other factors that establish intoxication such as slurred speech, blood shot eyes, and the smelled of an alcoholic beverage on the breath.

In New York, a DWI charge may be a misdemeanor or a felony. First time DWI’s are usually charged as misdemeanors. Those arrested for driving while intoxicated with a child 15 years or younger in the vehicle at the time will be charged with a felony under the recently enacted Leandra’s law. Those with a previous conviction for driving while intoxicated within the last 10 years, will be charged with felony driving while intoxicated.

Those charged with driving while intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of .18 or higher will be charged with Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (NYS VTL 1192.2A). This is a relatively new charge. A conviction for Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated carries harsher consequences than Driving While Intoxicated (VTL 1192.2 and VTL 1192.3).

A person may also be charged with Driving While Ability Impaired Due To Drugs (VTL 1192.4) as well as Driving While Ability Impaired Due To A Combination Of Drugs And Alcohol (VTL 1194.A).

Motorist charged with operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .05 or greater, but less than .08 will be charged with Driving While Ability Impaired by the Consumption of Alcohol. This charge is a violation accept in cases where there is a prior conviction for driving while impaired or driving while intoxicated within 5 years of the new charge, in which case the motorist may be charged with a misdemeanor.

How a DWI affects your license.

Those in New York, charged with misdemeanor Driving while intoxicated who have taken the breath test, will still receive a 30 day driver’s license suspension simply for being charged with driving while intoxicated. The 30 day suspension runs from the date of the arrest. Those who had a valid New York State driver's license at the time of the arrest may be eligible for a hardship license. A hardship license permits you to drive to and from your place of employment, to and from school, and/or to and from medical appointments. The hardship license only permits you to drive during specified times of the day during the 30 day hardship license period. Prior to the end of the 30 day suspension period the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles will send a letter advising that you may go to department of motor vehicles DMV and apply for a new license. To receive a hardship license, the court needs to conduct a Hardship Hearing to determine whether a hardship license is warranted.

If you have been charged with Driving While Intoxicated and it is alleged that you refused to take a breath test, (this is known as a refusal) the court will suspend your license at arraignment, pending a refusal hearing. If you lose the refusal hearing or fail to show for the hearing, your license will be revoked for a minimum 6 months, or 1 year for those under the age of 21 and DMV will impose a civil penalty of at least $500.00.

A conviction for an alcohol related driving offense carries additional suspensions and/ or revocations on your driver’s license. Furthermore, recent changes in the law require those convicted of driving while intoxicated to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle owned or operated by the motorist for a certain period of time. The interlock device requires the driver to blow into the device to confirm that he or she has not consumed alcohol.

Recent Trends in the Law

25 years ago, when I first started practicing law in Suffolk County, my first job was located in the criminal court building handling exclusively criminal cases. In those days the court was located in the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Later the court was moved to 400 Carleton Avenue in Central Islip, as was my office. Often I would spend the whole day arraigning defendants who were arrested the previous evening. In those days there were typically about 80 new arrests per weekday. On weekends there were about a 100 new arrest. Of the 100 new arrests, about 30 were for driving while intoxicated. In those days representing clients for driving while intoxicated was relatively simple. Driving while intoxicated was not viewed as that serious compared to other charges, and were not prosecuted that vigorously. Attorneys were usually able to obtain favorable results for their clients with minimal effort and skill. For this reason, many attorneys in Suffolk County looked for DWI cases. Over the years however, there has been a gradual, yet steady trend towards vigorously prosecuting these cases. At the same time New York State has enacted a number of new laws increasing the punishment and penalties for alcohol related convictions.

Today the number of arrests for driving while intoxicated are only a fraction of what they were 25 years ago, however those cases are prosecuted much more vigorously than in the past. If you are charged with driving while intoxicated, don’t be surprised if your case is commented on, on News 12, or mentioned in Newsday. Also, what was once, generally a simple procedure to resolve with a reduction to a lesser charge, has become, in most cases a complicated ordeal, often requiring evaluations from certified alcohol counselors and alcohol treatment as part of any resolution as well as often the requirement of an interlock device being installed in your vehicle.

Resolving a Suffolk County Driving While Intoxicated charge

The resolution of any DWI received in Suffolk County, will depend on a number of factors. Most important considerations are whether the defendant submitted to a breath test or blood test, if so, what was the blood alcohol reading, are there prior convictions for alcohol related offenses, was an accident involved, and was anyone injured.

Driving while intoxicated charges in Suffolk County are not the type of case you would be able to resolve without an attorney, so if you have been charged with a DWI in Suffolk, the sooner you retain an attorney to assist you, the better.


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