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With the winter holidays here, even during a pandemic, it can be tempting to celebrate the new year with one-too-many alcoholic drinks. Despite these extenuating circumstances, law enforcement will be particularly vigilant about pulling over anyone they suspect of driving while intoxicated (DWI). And if you have already been convicted of that or a related crime, you could face even harsher penalties as a repeat DWI offender. For instance, a second DWI conviction alone is classified as a Class E felony, which means you could face between one and four years in jail and steep fines in addition to license revocation and other disciplinary measures. The penalties only get worse from there if you end up charged with a third DWI or other multiple DWIs after previous similar convictions. As such, there are a few very important things to understand about repeat DWI offenses this holiday season.

What Makes You a Repeat DWI Offender According to New York Law?

By New York law, a repeat DWI offender, at least after the first or second conviction, is any person who has been convicted of an alcohol-related driving crime or other serious driving offense within the last 10 years. This means that the definition of a prior related conviction is much more expansive here, enabling more than just a traditional DWI conviction to count toward that requirement. For instance, all the following convictions are considered serious driving offenses, which could mean that a misdemeanor first-time DWI charge might actually be a repeat offense, elevating it to a felony:

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New York criminal defense attorney DWI

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is treated as a serious offense in New York with the potential for significant penalties if you are convicted. One frequently imposed consequence for alcohol-related driving offenses is the suspension or revocation of the offender’s driver’s license for a specified period of time, from 90 days for minor infractions up to 18 months for some felony convictions. While this can reduce the public risk of injury in future drunk driving accidents, it can also create hardship for the person whose license is suspended or revoked if he or she is unable to drive to work, school, and other important locations. If you have been arrested for or convicted of DWI or a similar offense, a criminal defense attorney may be able to help you obtain a conditional license to reduce this hardship.

Obtaining a Conditional Driver’s License in New York

If you are a first-time DWI offender facing relatively minor charges and the State of New York believes your continued driving does not pose a significant risk to other drivers, you may be able to seek a conditional driver’s license. In order to be eligible for a conditional license, you must also attend an Impaired Driver Program approved by the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), as well as submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation and any required treatment programs.

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NYC DWI defense attorneyPenalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New York are steep, but many experts do not believe that the foundation of about a million convictions a year, the alcohol breath test, is anywhere near consistent enough to ensure guilt in many cases. If you were pulled over and are going to court for a DWI or DUI, it is important to have outstanding legal assistance to properly contest the potentially erroneous readings of a breath test. A lot is on the line, and strong legal defense from an experienced DWI attorney could help you avoid the fines, jail sentences, and license revocations that accompany a conviction.

Lack of Regulation and Flawed Results

A New York Times investigation in 2019 exposed the many faults not just of alcohol breath tests, but also of the regulations that are supposed to help guarantee their accuracy and of the labs where the tests are processed. Even though a million Americans are arrested for drunken driving each year, over 30,000 breath tests were discarded by courts in just a year. Many of those tests were inaccurate and led to wrongful convictions, while a portion could have acquitted dangerous drivers. The Times investigation showed that the technicians who analyze the tests often lack experience and that lack of oversight has resulted in countless improperly calibrated machines. In one of the worst scenarios, a Massachusetts analyzer machine had rats nesting inside.

Also, many experts found the breath analyzer machines themselves to be flawed. Most of the companies that manufacture them do not allow the public to purchase them, so it has been difficult for investigators to get a good look at the machines. Experts in the Times investigation reported that the code in some of these machines does not just have some errors, but thousands. 

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New York DWI defense attorneysWhen a motorist is pulled over for suspicion of driving while intoxicated, the police officer may administer a series of field sobriety tests in order to decide whether or not the driver is impaired or drunk. These tests can help an officer determine a driver's coordination and ability to understand directions. Since law enforcement will often use these assessments to decipher probable cause, citizens often believe their reliability. However, multiple factors can lead to an incorrect conclusion. If you or a loved one has been charged with a DWI, it is important to understand your rights and speak to an experienced attorney.   

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

In order to determine a driver’s level of sobriety, police officers may utilize a variety of different evaluations. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are three main tests used by law enforcement:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test: The driver will be asked to put their feet together and keep their hands by their side. While keeping their head still, the driver will be asked to follow a stimulus (pen, pencil, light) with their eyes only. The police officer will be looking for any variation of the instructions, as well as any involuntary jerking of the eyes, which may be more pronounced when a person is intoxicated. 
  • Walk and Turn Test: The motorist will be asked to place their left and right foot on an imaginary or marked line, and to walk straight, touching heel to toe. Specific instructions will be given on how the motorist should conduct his or her turning motion. The walk and turn test can help determine coordination and ability to follow instructions.
  • One-Leg Stand Test: The driver will be instructed to keep both arms at their side while raising one leg, six inches in the air. The driver will have to count out loud until instructed to stop. This test will help determine the balance and ability to understand instructions.  

Field Sobriety Test Statistics

The NHTSA’s own statistics prove that field sobriety tests are not always accurate. Out of these three tests, the NHTSA indicated that that the HGN test is the most accurate in determining whether or not a driver is intoxicated. Looking into the statistics, the administration estimates that when the tests are administered correctly:

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Posted on in DWI

New York DWI Defense AttorneyFor those who have experienced the consequences of driving while intoxicated firsthand or know someone who has, it comes as no surprise that there are serious penalties for the decision to drive drunk. These penalties only intensify when there is a repeated offense, and these effects have the power to wreak substantial havoc on the offender’s reputation, home life, and finances. When it comes to being accused of driving while intoxicated (DWI), however, certain tactics the police may use may create circumstances that stack all the odds against you, leaving little room for your defense. This can be especially difficult if you already have an existing DWI on your record. 

How Are Repeat DWI Offenses Addressed?

Unlike an offense of driving while ability impaired (DWAI), which implies your blood alcohol content level (BAC) is at least 0.05 but no more than 0.07 and that your driving ability is impaired, a DWI indicates a higher BAC and that you are intoxicated. Two or more of these heightened DWI violations can quickly demolish a driver’s record. The penalties for the variety of alcohol and drug-related violations here in the state of New York are diverse, ranging from hefty mandatory fines and the loss of driving privileges to jail terms. Repeat offenses are treated as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances, and the penalties are determined based on the number of repeat offenses within specific periods of time. 

For example, a second DWI violation within a ten-year timeframe results in a Class E felony with fines up to $5,000 and a maximum jail term of up to four years, while a third DWI violation is deemed a Class D felony with fines up to $10,000 and a maximum jail term of seven years. As you can see, the fines and jail time increase as the repeat offenses pile up. If you are facing accusations of multiple DWI offenses, here are some other general penalties you can expect to come up against:

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