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« How much do I have to drink before it affects my driving?

« What is BAC?

« How can I sober up quickly?

« What will happen if I am stopped for drunk driving?

« Is plea bargaining possible?

« What if I don’t take the BAC test?

« Does age have anything to do with penalties?

« What are the chances that if I drink and drive that I will be caught?

« Can I receive a limited license to drive if I am convicted of drunk driving?

« What factors contribute to the level of impairment?

« What are the types of alcohol and drug-related violations in New York?

« What are the penalties for alcohol or drug-related violations?

« What is Leandra’s Law?

« What are the different parts of Leandra’s Law and what are the penalties for conviction?

« What is an interlock device?

« How do I remove the interlock restriction from my driver’s license?

« What are the penalties for multiple offenders?


How much do I have to drink before it affects my driving?

Any amount of alcohol affects your judgment and coordination. The degree of impairment depends upon:
1. The amount of alcohol you consume
2. Your body weight
3. Whether or not you eat before or while drinking
4. The length of time you spend drinking
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What is BAC?

BAC stands for “blood alcohol concentration.” It’s a measure of the amount of alcohol in your blood. In New York State, a BAC of more than .05% is evidence that your ability is impaired by alcohol (DWAI or driving while ability impaired). A BAC of .08% or more is evidence of intoxication (DWI, driving while intoxicated, and/or driving with a BAC of .08 or more.) Under New York’s Zero Tolerance Law, drivers under age 21 may be detained for driving with as little as .02% BAC.
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How can I sober up quickly?

There is no quick way. Only time can make you sober. You must wait for your body to metabolize the alcohol. Most people need about one hour to metabolize one drink.
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What will happen if I am stopped for drunk driving?

If a police officer believes you are intoxicated, you will be arrested and requested to take a BAC test. If convicted you will face a substantial fine, license revocation, higher insurance costs, legal fees and a possible jail sentence.
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Is plea bargaining possible?

The law prohibits a plea to reduce an alcohol traffic offense to a non-alcohol traffic offense.
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What if I don’t take the BAC test?

Your license will be suspended by DMV at arraignment and later revoked at a hearing. You are also subject to a civil penalty of $200-500.
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Does age have anything to do with penalties?

Yes. If you are under 21 and convicted of an alcohol related offense your license is revoked for at least one year. A second offense while under 21 results in a one year revocation or a revocation until age 21, whichever is longer.
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What are the chances that if I drink and drive that I will be caught?

Greater than ever before. The STOP-DWI Law has increased both enforcement and prosecution of drunk drivers. This law returns fine money to counties for anti-DWI programs. Also State and local police are doing blanket patrols and checkpoints to aid in the apprehension of drunk drivers. These enforcement efforts can occur at any place and time.
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Can I receive a limited license to drive if I am convicted of drunk driving?

In some cases, yes. Such conditional licenses are available mostly to first time offenders who agree to attend the 16 hour Drinking Driver Program.
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What factors contribute to the level of impairment?

Driving while intoxicated is a crime. Your judgment, coordination and ability to drive a vehicle change when you consume any amount of alcohol. The level of impairment depends on five conditions:

  • the amount of alcohol you drink
  • the amount of food you eat before or while you drink alcohol
  • the length of time you drink alcohol
  • your body weight
  • your gender

There is no quick method to become sober. The best method is to wait until your body absorbs the alcohol. The average rate that your body processes alcohol is approximately one drink per hour.
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What are the types of alcohol and drug-related violations in New York?

Types of alcohol and drug-related violations in New York State:

  • Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
    .08 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or higher or other evidence of intoxication. For drivers of commercial motor vehicles: .04 BAC or other evidence of intoxication.
  • Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (Aggravated DWI)
    .18 BAC or higher
  • Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI/Alcohol)
    More than .05 BAC but less than .07 BAC, or other evidence of impairment.
  • Driving While Ability Impaired by a Single Drug other than Alcohol (DWAI/Drug)
  • Driving While Ability Impaired by a Combined Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (DWAI/Combination)
  • Chemical Test Refusal
    A driver who refuses to take a chemical test (normally a test of breath, blood or urine).
  • Zero Tolerance Law
    A driver who is less than 21 years of age and who drives with a .02 BAC to .07 BAC violates the Zero Tolerance Law.

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What are the penalties for alcohol or drug-related violations?

In New York State, the penalties for an alcohol or drug-related violation include the loss of driving privileges, fines, and a possible jail term.

Penalties for alcohol or drug-related violations

Violation Mandatory Fine Maximum Jail Term Mandatory Driver License Action
Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (AGG DWI) $1,000 – $2,500 1 year Revoked for at least one year
Second AGG DWI in 10 years (E felony) $1,000 – $5,000 4 years Revoked for at least 18 months
Third AGG DWI in 10 years (D felony) $2,000 – $10,000 7 years Revoked for at least 18 months
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving While Impaired by a Drug (DWAI-Drug) $500 – $1,000 1 year Revoked for at least six months
Second DWI or DWAI-Drug violation in 10 years (E felony) $1,000 – $5,000 4 years Revoked for at least one year
Third DWI or DWAI-Drug violation in 10 years (D felony) $2,000 – $10,000 7 years Revoked for at least one year
Driving While Ability Impaired by a Combination of Alcohol/Drugs (DWAI-Combination) $500 – $1,000 1 year Revoked for at least six months
Second DWAI-Combination in 10 years (E felony) $1,000 – $5,000 4 years Revoked for at least one year
Third DWAI-Combination in 10 years (D felony) $2,000 – $10,000 7 years Revoked for at least one year
Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI) $300 – $500 15 days Suspended for 90 days
Second DWAI violation in 5 years $500 – $750 30 days Revoked for at least six months
Third or subsequent DWAI within 10 years (Misdemeanor) $750 – $1,500 180 days Revoked for at least six months
Zero Tolerance Law $125 civil penalty and $100 fee to terminate suspension None Suspended for six months
Second Zero Tolerance Law $125 civil penalty and $100 re-application fee None Revoked for one year or until age 21
Chemical Test Refusal $500 civil penalty ($550 for commercial drivers) None Revoked for at least one year, 18 months for commercial drivers.
Chemical Test Refusal within five years of a previous DWI-related charge/Chemical Test Refusal $750 civil penalty None Revoked for at least 18 months, one-year or until age 21 for drivers under age 21, permanent CDL revocation for commercial drivers.
Chemical Test Refusal – Zero Tolerance Law $300 civil penalty and $100 re-application fee None Revoked for at least one year.
Chemical Test Refusal – Second or subsequent Zero Tolerance Law $750 civil penalty and $100 re-application fee None Revoked for at least one year.
Driving Under the Influence (Out-of-State) N/A N/A Revoked for at least 90 days. If less than 21 years of age, revoked at least one year.
Driving Under the Influence (Out-of State) with any previous alcohol-drug violation N/A N/A Revoked for at least 90 days (longer term with certain prior offenses). If less than 21 years of age, revoked at least one year or until age 21 (longest term).

Additional penalties

  • greater penalties can also apply for multiple alcohol or drug violations within a 25-year period
  • surcharges are added to alcohol-related misdemeanors ($260) and felonies (generally $400, but varies slightly depending on court of conviction)
  • three or more alcohol or drug-related convictions or refusals within 10 years can result in permanent revocation, with a waiver request permitted after at least 5 years
  • a driver with an Aggravated DWI violation conviction within the prior 10 years will receive a minimum 18-month revocation if convicted of DWI, DWAI/Drugs or DWAI/Combination. Also, a driver with a prior DWI, Aggravated DWI, DWAI/Drugs or DWAI/Combination with the prior 10 years will receive a minimum 18-month revocation
  • a driver convicted of an Aggravated DWI, DWI, DWAI/Drug, DWAI/combination, vehicular assault and aggravated vehicular assault, or vehicular manslaughter and vehicular homicide three or more times in the preceding 15 year period is guilty of a Class D felony

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What is “Leandra’s Law?”

Leandra’s Law was signed into law on November 18, 2009 in honor of Leandra Rosado. Leandra was an 11-year old killed while she rode in a vehicle with the intoxicated mother of one of her friends. In response to this tragedy, the NY State Legislature made several changes to the Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL). The law strengthened the penalties against motorists who drink and drive, and requires that

  • any person sentenced for Driving While Intoxicated on or after August 15, 2010 must have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle they own or operate
  • the driver will have an “ignition interlock” restriction added to their driver license

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What are the different parts of Leandra’s Law and what are the penalties for conviction?

Leandra’s Law includes the following provisions:

Aggravated DWI/Child in Vehicle

The law established a new Class E Felony. The law states that no person shall operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs while a child who is 15 years of age or younger is a passenger in the vehicle.

Ignition interlock requirement

A court must sentence a person convicted of either Aggravated DWI/Child in Vehicle or Aggravated DWI/Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .18 or More to a period of probation or to a conditional discharge. The court must require the installation and use of an ignition interlock device in any motor vehicle owned or operated by a person convicted under this law. The ignition interlock device must remain in the vehicle for at least 12 months, unless otherwise permitted by the court.

A court that sentences a person for a Driving While Intoxicated conviction on or after August 15, 2010 must impose a conditional discharge or probation, and a condition of the sentence must be the installation and use of an ignition interlock device in any motor vehicle the person owns or operates. The ignition interlock device must remain in the vehicle for at least 12 months, unless otherwise permitted by the court.
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What is an interlock device?

An ignition interlock device connects to a motor vehicle ignition system and measures the alcohol content in the breath of the operator. The device prevents the vehicle from being started until the motorist provides an acceptable breath sample.

If ignition interlock is ordered by a court, the system must be installed on each vehicle the motorist owns or operates. The device must remain installed for at least six months. The ignition interlock restriction will be added to the driver license record even if the license is revoked. The restriction will appear on the back of the driver license document as “interlock device”.

Courts and probation departments will direct convicted motorists to vendors for ignition interlock installation.
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How do I remove the interlock restriction from my driver’s license?

Your ignition interlock monitor must give you a form that states that you are no longer required to install and maintain the ignition interlock device in motor vehicles you own or operate. You must take this form to a local DMV office and apply for a new document without the restriction.
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What are the penalties for multiple offenders?

New regulations took effect on September 25, 2012 that affect drivers with multiple alcohol/drugged-driving related convictions or incidents. The highlights of how these changes affect persons applying for a driver license after their license is revoked are provided below.

  • Applicants with three or four alcohol/drugged-driving related convictions or incidents within a 25 year period, without a serious driving offense and whose revocation does NOT result from an alcohol or drugged driving conviction or incident, will be denied relicensing for two years in addition to the statutory revocation period, and then will be relicensed with a problem driver restriction for two years. A serious driving offense is a fatal accident, a driving-related penal law conviction, conviction of two or more violations for which five or more points are assessed, or 20 or more points from any violations.
  • Applicants with three or four alcohol/drugged-driving related convictions or incidents within the preceding 25 years, without a serious driving offense and whose revocation DOES result from an alcohol or drugged driving conviction or incident, will be denied relicensing for five years in addition to the statutory revocation period, and then will be relicensed with a problem driver restriction for 5 years with an ignition interlock.
  • Applicants with three or four alcohol/drugged-driving related convictions or incidents within the preceding 25 years, with a serious driving offense will be permanently denied a driver license, unless there are unusual, extenuating and compelling circumstances.
  • Applicants with five or more alcohol/drugged-driving related convictions or incidents on their lifetime driving record will be permanently denied a driver license, unless there are unusual, extenuating and compelling circumstances.
  • Applicants with two or more alcohol/drugged-driving related convictions or incidents within the preceding 25 years will be required to serve their entire sanction period (suspension or revocation) even if they complete the Impaired Driver Program (IDP) (previously known as Drinking Driving Program (DDP))and will be required to submit proof of rehabilitation.

Penalties for multiple offenders

Offense History DMV Action
Five or more alcohol/drugged driving related convictions or incidents lifetime = “Persistently Dangerous Driver” Permanent denial (subject to unusual, extenuating and compelling circumstances)
In a 25 year period, three or four alcohol/drugged driving related convictions or incidents + one Serious Driving Offense (SDO) = “Persistently Dangerous Driver” Permanent denial (subject to unusual, extenuating and compelling circumstances)
Revoked for alcohol-related offense, three or four alcohol/drugged driving related convictions or incidents without any SDO in a 25 year period Deny for five years in addition to statutory revocation period, then relicense with restricted license and interlock for five years
Revoked for non-alcohol-related offense, three or four alcohol/drugged driving related convictions or incidents without any SDO in a 25 year period Deny for two years in addition to statutory revocation period, then relicense with restricted license for two years, but no interlock
Two alcohol/drugged driving related convictions or incidents No full relicensing until end of statutory minimum revocation period, even if IDP is completed.

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Information sited from NYS DMV as of May 2020.