Criminal Defense Questions and Answers

Q:  I heard that New York has among the harshest DWI laws on the books for first‑time offenders, is that true?

A:  They are very harsh. In New York, a first time DWI offender has very serious penalties. For instance, a fine of between $500 and $1,000, a period of probation of definitely three years, license is revoked for six months, can serve up to a year in jail. There are some serious consequences. Also, in New York, if you have a second DWI within 10 years of a DWI conviction, it becomes a felony. Then you’re looking at having a felony conviction which is much more serious. If you have a third DWI, it gets even more serious, the consequences. A felony DWI carries probation of five years and up to four years in prison. Your license is lost for a year.

Q:   What are the long term impacts of the DWI that people may not really be aware of or may not really think about?

A:  There’s the fact that it aggravates if you commit another DWI within 10 years. Instead of it being a misdemeanor, it’s now a felony. If you commit a third DWI in 10 years, it’s an even more serious felony with up to seven years in prison. New York has, effective on September 25th of 2012, new regulations with the Department of Motor Vehicles put into effect where if someone has five or more alcohol or drugged driving related convictions in their lifetime, they are permanently denied a driver’s license.

They are classified as what’s called a persistently dangerous driver. If someone has three or four alcohol drug driving convictions plus a serious driving offense, they are also permanently denied a driver’s license. If your license is revoked for an alcohol related offense, and you have three or four alcohol or drugged driving related convictions in the last 25 years, but no serious driving related offense, you’re denied for five years.

The recent regulations of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, which reach back pretty far in time, and, thus, aggravate the circumstances and can cause someone to now be permanently denied getting their license. A DWI conviction 20 years ago can affect you.

In today’s culture, a driver’s license really is a necessity. People need to be able to drive. Perhaps in New York City, where there’s so much public transportation, it is not necessary. But the vast majority of people in New York State, people need to be able to drive to work, to take their children to school, to get to the doctor, to do what they need to do. Losing a driver’s license has an enormous impact on people.

Former New York state prosecutor Thomas J. Melanson represents clients in the Hudson Valley from his office in Kingston, New York.  This interview was from March 2013.

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