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Financial Consequences of DWIs

January 30, 2009

While most of us recognize the dangers of drinking and driving and the implications that a DWI conviction can have on our licenses, many people do not appreciate how substantial the financial penalties are.

There are numerous drinking and driving offenses in NYS, the most common of which are: (a) driving while ability impaired (“DWAI”); (b) driving while intoxicated (“DWI”); and (c) aggravated driving while intoxicated (“ADWI”). You can be charged with DWAI for having a blood alcohol content (“BAC”) of 0.05 – 0.07%. DWI can be charged when the BAC is 0.08 – 0.17% and ADWI can be charged when the BAC is 0.18% and above. You can also be charged with drinking and driving based on the police officer’s observations and your performance on field sobriety tests. Refusing the breath test carries separate and considerable penalties and fines.

For a first time offense, if convicted of DWAI, you will be subject to a fine of $300 – $500, plus the mandatory NYS surcharge of $400, which has recently increased exponentially. A DWI conviction carries a fine of $500 – $1,000, plus the $400 surcharge and an ADWI conviction carries a fine of $1,000 – $2,500, plus the surcharge. NYS recently created the Driver Responsibility Assessment, which, for drivers with drinking and driving convictions, costs $250 per year for three years.

To obtain a conditional license during the suspension/revocation period following conviction of a drinking and driving offense, you must participate in the drinking and driving program, which costs approximately $250. There are also fees associated with obtaining a conditional license and with reapplication and suspension termination.

After being charged with drinking and driving, the vehicle driven by the defendant is normally towed and impounded. The impound charges are approximately $25 per day and you must also pay towing fees of around $100 to retrieve the car.

Most automobile insurance carriers raise rates significantly once they learn of a drinking and driving conviction, if they don’t cancel the policy altogether. On average, annual rates increase by $2,500.

In many instances, a drinking and driving offense result in a mandatory alcohol assessment and, if treatment is recommended, the defendant must pay for that as well (some health insurance companies cover such treatment).

Other potential costs include transportation, lost time from work, probation expenses, emotional costs (stress) and ignition interlock device costs.

Hiring counsel to defend a DWI can help minimize these penalties. Of course, this is another expense, albeit a very important one.