Monday, November 2, 2015

Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) Is Not a Criminal Offense…Until It Is!

Alcohol and/or drug related driving offenses in New York State run the spectrum from violation level offenses (non-criminal) all the way up to class D felonies punishable by up to seven (7) years in state prison.

In DWI cases that should never see the the light of trial, DWI defense attorneys will typically do everything within their ability to convince the prosecutor and the court to accept a plea to a reduced offense, and, in most cases, Driving While Ability Impaired (“DWAI” or just “AI”) in violation of VTL Sec. 1192.1 is the goal. That’s because a DWAI is, in most cases, a traffic infraction (a violation) that does not result in a criminal conviction (although there are still fines, surcharges, program requirements, license sanctions, and a possibility of up to 15 days in jail). Click here for more information on DWAI.  

However, there are instances when an AI may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor, resulting in a criminal record if convicted, as well as a potential period of incarceration and/or probation in addition to the fines, surcharges, program requirements and license sanctions. 

If you are convicted of an AI offense after having been convicted within the preceding five (5) years of one (1) prior alcohol or drug related driving offense as defined in VTL Sec. 1192 (e.g., DWAI, DWI, Agg DWI, DWAI-Drugs), it will still be a conviction of a traffic infraction but with more substantial fines and penalties than the first time around. 

BUT! If you are convicted of an AI offense within the preceding ten (10) years of having been convicted of two (2) prior alcohol or drug related driving offenses as defined in VTL 1192, that new AI can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor! So long story short, two AI strikes and you’re out! And unless you've read this article or the NYS VTL - and who does that other than attorneys - you really wouldn't have a reason to know this!  

But not knowing about this enhanced prosecution possibility, or worse, hiring an attorney who doesn’t know about it because he or she is not an experienced DWI defense attorney, can catch you by surprise if you have prior convictions. And no one wants to be surprised when it comes to their license, livelihood and life! 

            Also keep in mind that Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs ("AI-Drugs"), defined in VTL Sec. 1192.4, is NOT the same as DWAI (VTL Sec. 1192.1). If you are arrested for and charged with a violation of AI-Drugs, you are fighting a misdemeanor from the get-go. And the consequences of an AI-Drugs conviction are significantly different from a misdemeanor DWI conviction, and a LOT different from an AI conviction. 

DWI is a serious charge with serious consequences. If you have been arrested and charged with DWI or any other alcohol or drug related driving offense in New York State, call the experienced DWI defense attorneys at Catalano & Carpenter LLP at (845) 454-1919 today! The sooner we get involved, the sooner we can help. 

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