One DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DWAI (driving while ability impaired) conviction in New York state is tough enough: for DWI, a mandatory fine of $500 to $1,000, a six-month revocation of your license, and potentially up to a year in jail; for DWAI, a fine of $300 to $500, a six-month license suspension, and as many as 15 days in jail; not to mention the lawyers’ fees and disruption of your work and social life.

So what happens if you are charged with drunk driving again?

The first consideration is whether the new arrest would qualify as a second offense, which depends on how long it’s been since the first one. Generally speaking, New York’s “look-back” period for a DWI conviction, or a DWAI involving other drugs, is 10 years; for an alcohol-only DWAI, it is five years. (DWI is defined as driving with a blood alcohol content [BAC] of .08 or higher; DWAI is indicated by a BAC of .05 to .07, “or other evidence of impairment.”)

A second DWI within 10 years means you could be charged with a Class E felony, pay up to $5,000 in fines, have your license revoked for at least one year, and/or go to prison for up to four years. A second DWAI violation within five years could mean a fine of up to $750, 30 days in jail, and a six-month revocation of your license.

Factors that will increase the penalties include: having a blood alcohol content of .18 or higher (called aggravated DWI); having other intoxicating drugs in your system; and having a child of 15 years or younger in your car.

Whether or not a person pulled over on suspicion of DWI should refuse a chemical test depends on many factors, and before making this decision, a person should contact a lawyer for advice.

Not all of the DWI and DWAI penalties described here are set in stone. A DWI attorney can help you navigate through some of your options: pleading guilty to a lesser charge; accepting probation and/or a treatment program; or litigating the case by conducting hearings and going to trial. Your attorney also can advise you on whether your county has a felony diversion program, the goal of which is to get people with a history of drunk driving into treatment in exchange for a lighter sentence.

If you have been charged with DWI or DWAI, whether for a first or a repeat offense, LaMarche Safranko Law can help. Contact us at (518) 982-0770 or online.