A person convicted of a driving while impaired (DWI) or driving while ability impaired (DWAI) infraction in New York State will usually lose their driving privileges for a period of time. During this period, they may be eligible for a conditional license that allows them to drive under limited circumstances. An eligible driver can apply for a conditional license at almost any Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in New York, but will be required to sign up for the Impaired Driver Program to do so.
It's important for New York drivers to have an overview of the laws about conditional licenses in the state. This includes the parameters of a conditional license, eligibility and application procedures following a DWI conviction. It also includes when and why a conditional license will be revoked.
What Is a Conditional License?
A person convicted of an offense in New York involving driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs will often lose their driving privileges. Depending on the offense, this can be a suspension or a revocation for a period of months or years. For the least serious drinking and driving offense in New York, driving while ability impaired (DWAI), a person can have their driver's license suspended for 90 days. Anyone convicted of a DWI (driving while intoxicated) in New York will have their license suspended for at least six months and, for some offenses, as long as 18 months.
A conditional license gives individuals charged with, or convicted of, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs the right to drive under very limited circumstances. There are pre-conviction conditional licenses and post-conviction conditional licenses. Eligibility depends on the person's prior driving record.
How to Apply for a Conditional License
Eligibility for a conditional license in New York depends on the charges involved and on the person's driving history. In general, if a person is convicted of a first-offense DWI or a DWAI, and has not had any DWI offenses in the previous five years, they can apply for a conditional license at any DMV office.
A driver can apply for a pre-conviction conditional license if they are arrested for a DWI or DWAI. When the driver is arraigned on these charges, the court suspends their driver's license pending prosecution. Thirty days into the prosecution, the driver can apply for a conditional license. A prior alcohol-related driving offense within the past five years or a refusal to take a chemical test disqualifies the driver for a conditional license.
Once a person is convicted of a DWAI or DWI offense in New York, it is only possible to obtain a conditional license if the driver enrolls in the state's Impaired Driver Program (IDP), a substance abuse education program. Only drivers convicted of a first-offense DWAI or DWI will be granted the conditional license upon enrollment.
What Does a Conditional License Allow?
When drivers are issued a conditional driver's license, their ability to drive is restored, but on a very limited basis. The driver must follow all of the restrictions of the conditional permit, including when and where they are allowed to drive.
The driver can operate a vehicle only to go to and from specified places. These include their place of employment; a DMV office; a class or activity that is part of an IDP; a class or course at an accredited college; a medical appointment; a probation or court appointment; or a child's daycare or school. Those in the IDP program may also drive anywhere they like during an assigned period of three consecutive hours between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. once a week.
What Is the IDP?
The New York Impaired Driver Program (IDP) is a program to educate drivers about substance abuse and the risks of driving while using alcohol and drugs. It includes multimedia presentations and guided discussions to encourage participants to change their behavior. There are seven weekly classroom sessions, totaling about 16 hours. Drivers who enroll in the IDP will have to pay a fee of up to $234 to attend, and they will be eligible for a conditional license if they do not have a prior record of DWI or DWAI offenses, including refusal to take a chemical test.
Some participants may be referred for more formal substance abuse assessment and treatment. This includes drivers with two or more DWI or DWAI convictions in a 10-year period and anyone who gets arrested on one of these charges while enrolled in the IDP. If assessment determines that treatment is required, the driver must complete the treatment in order to complete the IDP.
A driver who successfully completes the program is issued a Notice of Completion that is transmitted to the DMV. Depending on the person's license status and driving record, they may get their license restored or they may become eligible to apply for a new license.
Can a Conditional License be Revoked?
New York will revoke a conditional license if a driver is dropped from the IDP program. That can happen if they don't pay the IDP fees, don't do the required classwork or don't complete a mandated assessment or treatment. If this occurs, the original license suspension or revocation is reinstated for its full length. It is possible to re-enter the IDP in certain circumstances, which can result in the re-issuance of the conditional license.
A conditional license will also be revoked if the person is convicted of violating the conditions set out in the conditional license. That is, if the person drives anywhere that is not authorized by the license or drives at any times that are not authorized by the license, the license will be revoked.
Likewise, if a driver is convicted of any moving violations, including cellphone or seat belt violations, the conditional license will be revoked. A conditional license will also be revoked if the person is convicted of another alcohol or drug-related violation.
- New York DMV: Conditional and Restricted Licenses
- New York DMV: Penalties Alcohol or Drug Related Violations
- Hug Law: New York DWI Conditional License
- DMV: About the Impaired Driver Program
- Nassau County Traffic Lawyer: Applying for a Conditional License
- New York Legal Defense: How to Get a Conditional License Following a DWAI or DWI
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.