DWI Penalties in New York

DWI penalties in New York: Jail, fine, license revocation…and an IID

In New York, a drunk driving arrest can easily result in severe consequences. Indeed, regardless of whether an individual is charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving while ability impaired (DWAI), if ultimately convicted, he or she can face a large fine, a license suspension/revocation and even possible time in jail.

However, there is one penalty related to drunk driving that many people overlook ― or simply are not aware of ― and that is the required installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) following a DWI conviction. In fact, while IIDs are generally not applicable to DWAI offenders, those convicted of DWIs in New York may have to install IIDs in their vehicles even if they are first time offenders.

New York ignition interlock laws

For those who do not know, an ignition interlock device is a piece of equipment that can be installed in a motor vehicle in order to assess a driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) by analyzing his or her breath. Essentially, a driver must blow into the device and prove he or she is not intoxicated before the car will even start.

Under New York law, courts are required to order the installation of an ignition interlock device in any vehicle owed by an individual convicted of a DWI misdemeanor or felony offense. Importantly, the relevant New York statute makes it clear that this penalty is in addition to any fines or jail time already imposed.

Once ordered, an IID must typically be installed for at least six months in New York, although the court may require a longer period in certain situations. In either case, the restriction period begins to run when an individual is sentenced following a DWI conviction, or when the IID is actually installed, whichever is earlier.

While an IID must normally be used in all vehicles owned and driven by a DWI offender, there are some very important exceptions. For instance, if a person is required to drive an employer's vehicle as part of his or her job, he or she may operate the vehicle without an IID, but only if:

The individual is driving the employer's vehicle in the course of scope of his or her employment

  • The individual has notified the court and the probation department of his or her intention to operate an employer's vehicle
  • The employer has been notified that the individual's driving privileges have been restricted and necessitates the use of an IID
  • The individual has provided the court and probation department with written proof showing that his or her employer has knowledge of his or her driving restrictions and the employer has nevertheless granted permission for the individual to drive the employer's vehicle without an IID for business purposes

However, it is important to note that if the business in question is owed ― either partly or completely ― by the DWI offender, he or she cannot use this particular IID exception.

Proof of IID compliance in New York

After a court orders a person to install an IID on his or her vehicle following a DWI, the individual must provide proof of compliance to the court and/or probation department. In fact, not only does New York law expressly dictate that a functioning IID must be installed within 10 business days of sentencing, but proof of the completed installation must be provided within three business days of being installed.

If an individual fails to give proof of installation, the court has the option of revoking, modifying or terminating the individual's probation ― unless, of course, the person can show "good cause" for why proof was not provided. Good cause may be demonstrated if a person does not own any motor vehicles and also states under oath that he or she will not drive any vehicles during the IID restriction period.

In addition, the cost of both installing and maintaining an IID must be shouldered by the convicted driver, which can add up quite quickly when monthly monitoring fees are taken into consideration. Indeed, the only way to avoid these costs is if the court determines the individual is financially unable to bear such expense ― although proving such inability to pay is often difficult to show and typically requires significant financial disclosures.

Penalties for circumventing IIDs in New York

Once an individual has been ordered to install and use an ignition interlock, he or she risks additional punishment if caught attempting to evade his or her IID driving restrictions. In fact, not only can the driver face adverse consequences for attempting to circumvent an IID, but anyone who helps him or her may also face criminal charges. For instance, it is illegal in New York for:

  • A person subject to IID driving restrictions to request, solicit or otherwise allow any other person to blow into his or her IID for the purpose of starting the vehicle
  • A person to blow into an IID in order to start a vehicle for the purpose of providing an operable vehicle to a person subject to IID driving restrictions
  • A person to tamper with an otherwise functioning IID
  • A person subject to IID driving restrictions to drive a vehicle without such a device, unless they are driving the vehicle under a legally recognized exception, such as the employer vehicle exemption mentioned above

Ignition interlock manufacturers are also required under New York law to affix a label to each IID installed warning that any person tampering or circumventing the device may be guilty of a misdemeanor ― specifically, a Class A misdemeanor in New York.

A sound legal defense may be needed

Normally, the only option available for combating IID installation is to fight the original DWI charges and get around the issue altogether. Accordingly, anyone charged with a DWI in New York should contact an experienced and aggressive DWI defense attorney in order to build a thorough legal defense. A knowledgeable attorney can explain your options and help you navigate the often-complex DWI laws.