New York state police recently arrested a man in Hampton Bays because he failed to keep in the right lane. The driver appeared to be intoxicated, and he was taken to the state police barracks at Riverside. His blood alcohol content was measured at .12%, and he was charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI.) At this point, the case was unremarkable, but further investigation revealed that the driver had a prior conviction for DWI. Thus, the new violation became a felony. The case demonstrates how a driver’s past record for drunk driving can follow him or her for many years.

New York law increases penalties for DWI or Driving While Ability Impaired by a drug (DWAI) if the driver has one or more prior DWI or DWAI violations within a previous time span. A second DWI within ten years becomes a class E felony, and the potential maximum fine increases from $2,500 to $5,000. The maximum jail term increases from one year to four years. A third violation in ten years increases the maximum fine to $10,000 and the maximum jail term to seven years.

DWAI is considered a less serious violation than a DWI, but the penalties nevertheless increase with the second and third violations. A second DWAI in 10 years increases the maximum fine from $500 to $750, and the maximum jail term increases from 30 to 180 days. In addition to these penalties, a third DWI or DWAI violation within 10 years can result in permanent revocation of the driver’s license.

Given the severity of the penalties for a second or third violation, anyone facing a DWI charge with a prior conviction on his or her driving record may wish to consult a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. Such a consultation can provide a useful evaluation of the facts and law that will determine the case’s outcome and an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable plea agreement or an outright acquittal.

Source: New York Department of Vehicle Services, Penalties for alcohol or drug-related violations