A driving while intoxicated conviction, also known as DWI, can affect a person's driving record, insurance rates and employment. It can also result in hefty fines and jail time. Driving while impaired endangers the lives of not only the intoxicated driver and their passengers, but others on the road, including pedestrians and cyclists. In New York State, a DWI conviction can stay on a driver's record for up to 15 years or longer, depending on the severity of the charge.
DWI vs DUI in New York State
The terms DWI and DUI (driving under the influence) can have different meanings or the same meaning, depending on the state. Some states use one or the other, or both. Some states define DWI as impairment by alcohol only; in others, DUI refers to impairment by alcohol and illegal or prescription drugs. In New York, the terms mean essentially the same thing – operating a motor vehicle or other craft, like a motorcycle or boat, while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
New York law refers to impaired driving in these ways:
- DWI (driving while intoxicated): Having a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.08 percent or higher.
- DWAI (driving while ability impaired): This is specific to the substance used. DWAI-Drug includes illegal and prescription drugs. DWAI-Alcohol is a charge for driving with a BAC of 0.05 percent to 0.07 percent. Driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs is known as a DWAI-Combination.
- AGG-DWI (aggravated DWI): This charge is for those with a BAC of 0.18 percent or higher.
Types of Driving Records
A driving record is also known as an Abstract of Driving Record. According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, the three different types of records are:
- Standard driving record: This record contains information required by the department of motor vehicles (DMV) and usually shows the past few years of a driver's history.
- Lifetime driving record: This record contains everything the DMV currently has, as well as the driver's history, except that it dates back to when the driver initially started driving.
- Commercial driving record: This record includes convictions, suspensions, revocations and covers all states in any vehicle. Medical certification status and self-certification information also appear on a commercial driving record.
Drivers can order copies of their driving records through the DMV and have up to five days after placing the order to download it. There is a $7 fee, and the driver will have to create an account using their New York driver's license, permit or nondriver ID number. If any information is missing, the person requesting the record must place the order by mail, according to the DMV.
Information on a Driver's Record
A DMV abstract contains the driver's personal information, including name, address, license number, motorist ID, date of birth, sex, height and eye color. It also contains license class, status and expiration dates, as well as details of any suspensions, revocations, restrictions or endorsements that limit or expand the record holder's ability to drive. If the driver was in an accident, the record will show the date of the event, where it occurred, a case number and possible fatalities, injuries or property damages.
A driver's abstract also explains any suspensions or revocations the driver has incurred in greater detail, including the date when it took effect; if and when the record cleared; the reason for clearance; an order number; the types of sanctions imposed on the driver; and the county where the settlement took place. If there were convictions and bail forfeitures, the abstract reflects them by showing the type, date and location of the violations, the conviction dates, fine amounts and any points incurred.
How Long Will a DWI Show on an Abstract?
A driving record shows the driver's information as deemed public by the New York Vehicle & Traffic Laws. It will display suspensions or revocations for four years from the date they ended. If the driver refused a chemical test, a suspension will appear for an additional year. The record will also show accidents and most traffic convictions during the year they occurred and up to three additional years.
A DWI stays on a driver's abstract for 15 years from the date it occurred, and DWAIs show for up to 10 years from the conviction date. An abstract may display more severe charges permanently, such as vehicular homicide.
First Offenses and Zero Tolerance
A DWI is a misdemeanor, according to Peter Gerstenzang, a New York DWI lawyer. A driver's first offense could lead to a fine of up to $1,000; a year in jail and/or a fine; up to three years' probation; license and registration revocation of up to 6 months; a surcharge of $395 or more; and a driver responsibility assessment of $250 annually for three years. The driver may also have to attend a victim impact panel and install an ignition interlock device (IID) as one of the probation terms for no less than six months. If there is a second DWI charge in less than 10 years, it can become a felony charge and, as a result, a driver could face stiffer penalties.
If the driver is under 21, New York's Zero Tolerance Law will apply. A person under that age can face DWI charges with a BAC from 0.02 to 0.07 percent. The driver will not face jail time, but can receive a license suspension of up to six months and fines. This offense will remain on an abstract until the driver turns 21 or for three years, whichever is longer.
- New York State Department of Motor Vehicles: Standard Driving Records (abstracts)
- Peter Gerstenzang, Esq.: New York DWI Penalties
- Nave Law: New York State DWI Zero Tolerance Law
- New York State Department of Motor Vehicles: How to Get My Own Driving Record (abstract)
- Law Offices of Carl Spector: In New York Is There a Difference Between a DWI and a DUI?
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.