Frequently, the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction are worse than the direct consequences. DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) and DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) are good examples. Since New York is an implied consent state, even if you are not convicted of one of these offenses, your drivers’ license could be suspended or revoked for a lengthy period. [1] It is important to learn what you can do to avoid DWI license suspension.

Briefly, DWI is driving after losing the normal use of mental or physical faculties due to substance intake or a .08 BAC level or higher. DWAI is a lesser-included offense. These charges hold up in court if the defendant was unable to operate a motor vehicle “reasonabl[y] and prudentl[y]” or had a BAC level between .05 and .07.

Sadly, many defendants are fatalistic about avoiding DWI license suspension. They feel that license suspension, especially pre-conviction suspension, is inevitable. So, they do not work with a Rochester defense lawyer in this area. These defendants miss the chance to keep their drivers’ licenses. They also lose an important legal advantage.

Suspension and Revocation

Many people believe suspension and revocation are synonymous. But when they try to get their licenses reinstated after the adverse action periods end, they find a big difference.

Suspended drivers’ licenses are temporarily invalid. Generally, drivers can reinstate suspended licenses by paying a small fee and providing proof of insurance. You must do these things to reactivate your license. Suspended drivers’ licenses do not automatically become valid when the suspension periods end.

Revoked drivers’ licenses are permanently invalid. To drive again, you must start the licensing procedure from scratch. You must provide whatever documents the DMV demands and take whatever tests the DMV requires. The aforementioned reinstatement fee and insurance requirement usually apply as well.

Generally, New York suspends licenses instead of revoking them. Occasionally, a DWI conviction could involve a revocation. A Rochester defense lawyer can usually ensure that, in all these situations, authorities suspend your drivers’ license instead of revoking it.

Avoid DWI License Suspension at The ALR Hearing

To suspend your license without a conviction, following the implied consent law, the state must prove, at an Administrative Law Hearing, that officers had probable cause to demand a chemical sample. Probable cause is a lower standard of evidence than beyond a reasonable doubt. So, it’s difficult, but not impossible, for a Rochester defense attorney to win this point in court.

Frequently, officers rely on the Field Sobriety Test results to establish probable cause. Sometimes, defendants assert their Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to perform these tests. Other times, officers inexplicably skip them. In these situations, prosecutors must rely on circumstantial evidence, such as:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • The odor of alcohol,
  • Unsteady balance, and
  • Slurred speech.

This evidence only proves alcohol consumption if only two or three of these bullet points are involved. It does not prove intoxication or even impairment.

Even if the Administrative Law Judge enforces the full one-year suspension, you are typically entitled to a limited drivers’ license, as outlined below. Furthermore, win or lose, a Rochester defense attorney cross-examines the arresting officer under oath. Defendants often pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a chance to depose a police officer.

Post-Conviction Suspension

A DWAI suspension is a maximum of 90 days, and the maximum DWI suspension (or revocation) is 180 days. A Rochester defense attorney cannot challenge the suspension or its length, but an attorney can make the time much easier on you and your family.

Conditional or hardship drivers’ licenses are usually available for both pre-and post-conviction suspensions. These defendants may drive to and from work, school, the doctor’s office, and court-related activities, like probation meetings. Additionally, Monroe County gives you three hours of driving time a week to perform essential household activities.

You must complete New York’s Drinking Driver Program (DDP) to be eligible for a conditional license. Most defendants qualify for the DDP if they have not taken it within the last five years.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

Potential DWI/DWAI drivers’ license suspension is not the end of the world. Learn how you can avoid DWI license suspension by contacting the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Convenient payment plans are available.



The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

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