In Queens and in all of New York, drunk driving is called Driving While Intoxicated. There’s also a related offense called driving while ability impaired. There are multiple ways to be a drunk driver, and the offense may be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances.
The legal limit
The first way to be a drunk driver is to operate a motor vehicle while your blood alcohol level is over the legal limit. For most drivers, the legal limit is a .08 or more per 210 liters of breath or per 100 milliliters of blood. For commercial drivers, the legal limit is a .04.
For offenders under the age of twenty-one, the legal limit is a .02. This is commonly referred to as New York’s zero tolerance law. The penalties for zero tolerance are a bit different than they are for driving with a .08 alcohol content. Unlike DWI offenders, zero tolerance violators don’t face jail, but they face a longer license suspension than drunk drivers.
Under the influence
Another way to be a drunk driver is to drive while ability impaired. This means that a person operates a vehicle while alcohol or drugs impairs their driving. A person can also face charges if they drive under a combination of drugs and alcohol. It doesn’t matter how much of the influence comes from the alcohol and how much comes from drugs. Either way, the person can face charges of driving while ability impaired.
If you have an extremely high blood alcohol level, you can face enhanced charges. This is called aggravated DWI. When a driver’s blood alcohol level is a .18 or more, they can face charges of aggravated DWI. As your Queens DWI lawyer might explain, the logic is that drivers with very high blood alcohol levels are more likely to cause crashes and also more likely to need help addressing a drinking problem. An aggravated DWI charge brings enhanced penalties.
The penalties for Queens DWI vary depending on the specific conviction. At the most basic level, a driving while intoxicated conviction can bring up to one year in jail. The driver might have to pay a fine of up to $1,000 plus court costs. They face a license suspension of at least six months.
For repeat offenders, the charges are much more serious. A second DWI or driving while ability impaired within ten years of a prior conviction is a class E felony. That means spending up to four years in jail and facing a year without a driver’s license. It means all of the things that go along with having a felony conviction such as difficulty finding work. A third offense brings a maximum possibility of up to seven years in prison.
There are other circumstances that might make a drunk driving charge more serious. It’s a serious offense to operate a motor vehicle with a child fifteen years of age or less in the vehicle. This is called Lendra’s Law. Even a first offense is a felony. If the driver causes the death of the child because of drunk driving, they face many years in prison.
There are many defenses available to a person that faces drunk driving charges. In fact, it’s up to the state to prove the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. If they don’t collect evidence in lawful ways or if that evidence fails to convincingly show your guilt, you may not be convicted of drunk driving.
It’s important to consider the legality of the traffic stop. In the United States, people have a right to go about their business without the unreasonable interference of law enforcement. That means that law enforcement must have a constitutional reason to stop your vehicle. Seeing you weave over the center line repeatedly is a constitutional reason to stop a vehicle. Not liking the way a person looks or their choice of vehicle is not. An attorney can help you review the police report and bring a motion to suppress the state’s evidence if it’s appropriate.
Even if the initial traffic stop is legal, law enforcement has to collect evidence the right way. They have to perform field sobriety tests in a certain way. Standardized field sobriety tests are the result of federal studies and tests. If law enforcement chooses not to follow protocols, the results of the tests don’t say much about your level of intoxication. Finally, law enforcement also has to follow standards in order to assure the accuracy of the breath test. If they don’t do these things, the result can be dismissal of your case even before a trial or a finding of not guilty by a jury.
Begin your defense
If you’re facing a Queens DWI charge, contact us to begin working on your case. When we represent a drunk driving client, we go to work immediately to conduct an investigation and demand evidence from the state’s attorney. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can begin preparing your defenses. Please call us today to talk with one of our experienced attorneys.
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