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New York State DMV Regulations Affecting DWI and Relicensing

At Governor Cuomo’s urging, the NYS DMV has instituted new regulations affecting the relicensing of individuals convicted of alcohol related driving offenses. The regulations became effective on September 25, 2012 and, without a doubt, make New York one of the toughest states in the country in which to suffer a conviction for an alcohol related driving offense.

A full discussion of each and every aspect of the new regulations is well beyond the scope of a simple blog entry. And the new regulations are certainly not without issues and already a source of extreme contention for defense attorneys and the affected drivers alike. My purpose here is merely to highlight the bigger ticket items to provide you with a basic understanding of the regulations, and, as the DMV and Governor Cuomo intended, ideally serve as a significant deterrent to all drivers before risking a DWI or other alcohol related driving arrests.

It is important to know that for purposes of the new regulations, “alcohol related driving offenses" include not only DWI convictions, but zero tolerance violations and refusals, as well. For the sake of simplicity in this article, I will be using the offense of Driving While Intoxicated, or DWI, to represent all alcohol-related driving offenses (e.g, DWI, DWAI, DWAI-Drugs, Refusals and Zero Tolerance).

It should first be noted that these new regulations are just that: regulations. They do not change any of the laws in New York State as they pertain to DWI. That is, the legal limit is still .08%, and a second (or subsequent) DWI offense in ten (10) years is still subject to prosecution as a felony. Additionally, the minimum license revocation periods resulting from each respective offense remain the same. What the new regulations do change, however, and in a substantial way, is the ability of a convicted driver to re-obtain his or her license after serving any minimum license revocation period.

Anyone convicted of an alcohol related offense in New York State knows that a condition of that conviction is the attendance and completion of the Article 21 School, or the Drinking Driver Program (“DDP"), which may or may not permit you to obtain a conditional license during your revocation period. And depending on how long ago your prior alcohol related conviction was (if you had one), you could be eligible to re-apply for your full driving privileges upon completion of the DDP. With the exception of a first offense, that is unfortunately no longer the case.

25 Year Look-back

The DMV (and the DMV only) has extended the look-back period for prior convictions to 25 years. That means that if you have been convicted of an alcohol related offense at any point within the 25 years immediately preceding your most recent arrest, you will not be considered a first offender for DMV purposes (if ultimately convicted of the most recent offense). For example, if a driver is arrested for DWI on January 1, 2013, any alcohol related offense as far as back January 1, 1988 will be a factor. So that DWI arrest in 1989 when you were just 17 years old and got rid of with a Zero Tolerance or Driving While Ability Impaired violation now becomes a legitimate concern (***It is therefore extremely important that you remember and disclose any and all prior alcohol related offense to your attorney as soon as possible***).

So what happens if you do have a prior DWI (or other alcohol related driving offense) within the past 25 years and you’re facing a new conviction now?

First Offense Within 25 Years

First offense DWI’s continue to be treated the same as they were prior to enactment of the new regulations. That is, any minimum license revocation period may be shortened by completion of the DDP and application to reinstate your full driving privileges.

Second Offense Within 25 Years

A second DWI within 25 years will require completion of the full minimum license revocation period, whether or not you are eligible for the DDP/conditional license. Upon termination of the minimum mandatory revocation period, you may be eligible to re-apply for full driving privileges.

Third or Fourth Offense Within 25 Years

In the event you acquire 3 or 4 alcohol related offenses within 25 years, you will be required to serve the full minimum revocation period without a conditional license. Moreover, upon completion of that minimum revocation period, you will be subjected to an additional5 year period of revocation, similarlywithout a conditional license or other driving privileges (in most cases).

And you’re not done yet. Once you have satisfied what will generally equate to a five and a half year revocation, you may be eligible to re-apply for driving privileges. But even if the DMV decides to grant you those privileges, they will only beconditionalprivileges forfive more years. Additionally, you will be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device (“IID") in any vehicle you own or operate during that subsequent five year period, at your expense.

Five or More Offenses Within 25 Years

Simple. LIFETIME REVOCATION.

As is frighteningly clear, the consequences of a DWI conviction have been exponentially enhanced and are now dire. In this day and age, for the vast majority of us a driver’s license is imperative to survival. Loss of the right to drive can lead to loss of employment, home and family. And the DMV does not care.

Regrettably, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are also similar consequences for non-alcohol related convictions that result in a license revocation (many of which may surprise you). And many people who had been arrested and convicted long before these new regulations took effect on September 25, 2012 are nonetheless being swept up by the “long arm" of the DMV and subjected to these new enhanced sanctions.

Now more than ever, anyone charged with an alcohol related driving offense, or any criminal offense for that matter, must speak with an experienced and knowledgeable DWI/Criminal defense attorney before making any decisions about their case.

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