Possible DWI Penalties in New York

Just to make it clear: If you have consumed any alcohol or drugs (prescribed or otherwise) that might impair your capabilities to participate in traffic or operate machinery, you should not drive! That is the responsible way to act, and much safer for yourself as well as for other travel participants.

You Could Be Facing These DWI Penalties in New York

One problem is, that even a supposedly small amount of alcohol has negative effects on the skills and faculties you need to drive a vehicle, even if you might not be aware of any changes yourself. How grave these negative effects are, depends on the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream: the “BAC” or “Blood Alcohol Content”. The BAC does not only depend on the amount of alcohol consumed, but also on the individual’s gender, body weight, as well as the amount of food that has been consumed before and while drinking and the amount of time in which the drinking took place.

DWI penalties in New York

“Driving while intoxicated”, due to the potential dangers for everybody involved, is considered a crime, and as such incurs penalties – even if the driver was merely “caught”, without being involved in a traffic accident.

Therefore, let us have a look at the actual legal consequences of alcohol or drug-related traffic violations in the State of New York. DWI penalties in New York depend, among other factors, on the BAC level, but also on the question, whether the current incident is a repeated violation or has occurred for the first time.

But what – from a legal point of view – constitutes a DWI?

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

In New York State, a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher (or alternatively “other evidence of intoxication”) means that you are considered intoxicated. For the drivers of commercial motor vehicles, there are even stricter limits: For those, a .04 BAC level/other intoxication evidence means they are driving while intoxicated.

If your BAC is .18 or higher, this even constitutes an Aggravated DWI (with correspondingly harsher penalties).

If your BAC is more than .05 but less than .07, and you are not a commercial driver, you might (erroneously) think that you are legally in the clear. But that is still considered Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI/Alcohol) and comes with the respective penalties.

And if you are younger than 21, even a BAC between .02 and .07 BAC can get you into legal trouble, because this violates the Zero Tolerance Law.


  • Fine: In the State of New York, a financial penalty for the just described violations is mandatory. For a first-time DWI, the fine amounts to 500-1000 USD.
  • Driving privileges: In New York, action regarding your driver’s license (as in revocation or suspension) is mandatory as well. For a first-time DWI, this would mean a suspension of at least six months.
  • Jail time: Yes, there can even be jail time involved: a maximum of 1 year for a first-time DWI, but aggravated cases can mean a jail term of even up to 7 years.

A detailed overview of the various alcohol or drug-related traffic violations in the State of New York and the incurred penalties can be found on the New York DMV website.

No quick solution for sobering up!

Once more, for the record: There is none! Neither a strong cup of coffee nor a cold shower or any other supposed “remedy” can actually make you sober quickly. Your body needs several hours to metabolize (i.e. absorb) the alcohol that is in your system. A brochure issued by the NYSDMV states an average time of one hour per drink. This, of course, is only to give you a rough idea, because it would, of course, depend on the alcohol content of that particular drink as well!



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