I got arrested for DWI. What should I do now?

If you’ve been arrested for DWI in New York, don’t assume that your only option is to plead guilty and hope for the best. Even if you think you might be guilty, there may be possible defenses available, as well as ways to minimize the damage of a conviction. We recommend contacting an attorney for an assessment of your case.

If you are convicted of DWI, you could be facing a number of serious consequences. For example, for a person over 21, a typical, first-offense DWI at 0.08 percent blood alcohol content could get you up to a year in jail and a fine of between $500 and $1,000. That fine doesn’t include the mandatory crime victims’ assistance fee, conviction surcharge, or driver responsibility assessments — or the increase in your insurance rates. In addition, your driver’s license will be revoked for up to six months. The court may require you to install and maintain, at your own expense, an ignition interlock device.

Unfortunately, New York state law does not allow you to plea bargain an alcohol-related charge to a non-alcohol-related violation. That does not mean, however, that there is nothing to be done to improve your situation.

Here in Buffalo, you’re probably still going to need to drive to work or school. New York allows people convicted of DWI and other alcohol- and drug-related driving offenses to enter the Impaired Driver Program, or IDP. Successful participation in the IDP or an equivalent out-of-state program allows you to apply for a conditional license/privilege that will allow you to drive for work or school during your revocation period.

If you’re under 21 or have a commercial driver’s license, the legal blood alcohol content is much lower. Plus, New York’s Zero Tolerance Law for drivers under 21 could affect your penalty. All of the penalties could be higher — including your driver’s license suspension — if you are convicted more than once, if there were aggravating factors, or if your alcohol impairment results in a serious accident. And, there may be additional consequences, depending on your specific circumstances.

A first-time DWI may be a misdemeanor, but it can totally change your life. You have the right to defense counsel, and we recommend you exercise that right.

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