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What penalties can drunken driving defendants face in NY? And how can an attorney help? P.1

In drunken driving cases where it is not possible to have the case dismissed or charges thrown out, the goal is to hold the state to its full burden in proving the alleged charges, and to minimize the penalties imposed in the case. The specific penalties involved in drunken driving cases depend on several factors.

First of all, there are the specific criminal charge to consider, which depends on level of intoxication, driver age, aggravating circumstances, and whether or not there was a test refusal. A driver who refuses to take a breath, urine or blood test can, as readers may know, face additional penalties that drivers who submit to chemical testing do not. 

As to the other factors mentioned, the legal limit in New York, as in other states, is .08 for most drivers. For commercial drivers, the legal limit is .04. In New York, extreme intoxication—.18 or higher—is considered to be an aggravating condition, and can result in steeper penalties. On the other hand, alcohol impairment below the legal limit, between .05 and .07 or the presence of other evidence of intoxication, can result in a charge of driving while ability impaired, which is a lesser offense. Drivers who are younger than 21 years of age and who have a blood alcohol content between .02 and .07 can be charged under New York’s Zero tolerance law.

Besides the specific charges, another important factor in any drunken driving case is the driver’s criminal history with respect to drunken driving charges. Drivers with a prior record generally face stricter penalties, both in terms of criminal fines and incarceration.

In addition to fines and jail/prison time, another significant penalty drunken driving defendants need to consider is license suspension or revocation. The length of time of a license revocation depends on the specific drunken driving charge and the defendant’s criminal history, but the minimum revocation periods range from six months to one year, though longer periods may be imposed.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at other factors to consider with respect to drunken driving penalties, and the importance of working with an experienced attorney to build the strongest possible defense in these cases.

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