Most criminal penalties serve two basic functions. At least theoretically, they should punish offenders and deter others from doing likewise. So, first-time DWI consequences are harsh, and second time DWI consequences are even harsher. In the Empire State, unlike most other jurisdictions, a second DWI is normally a felony.
In most cases, New York has a ten-year lookback period. So, if Debbie got a DWI in 2010 and is charged with DWI again in 2020, she’ll need a DWI lawyer Rochester to help reduce the punishment for second-time offenders. Note that the lookback period runs from previous conviction to current arrest. Also, the lookback period is different in some cases.
Second-Time DWI Consequences: A Closer Look
The direct consequences of a second DWI vary according to the facts, mostly the defendant’s BAC level. Generally, the maximum punishments are as follows:
- Four years in prison,
- $1,000 fine, and
- One year drivers’ license revocation.
That prison sentence usually includes a mandatory five days in jail. A limited drivers’ license might be available for at least part of the revocation period. Other possible direct consequences include an alcohol evaluation and completion of any required treatment.
A good DWI lawyer Rochester will also carefully advise their clients about the possible indirect consequences. For example, auto insurance rates could double or even triple following a second DWI conviction. Many alcohol-related offenses also have employment, immigration, and family law consequences.
Intoxication Defenses and DWI Lawyer Rochester
Most DWI defendants provide chemical samples. If that sample shows a BAC level above the legal limit, the defendant could be guilty as a matter of law. That’s assuming the test results are 100 percent accurate, and no device has that good of a track record. In fact, Breathalyzers are quite similar to the 1940s Drunk-o-Meters. Some specific issues include:
- Ketone Levels: Many individuals, mostly smokers, and diabetics, have high ketone levels in their bodies. Breathalyzers register this substance as ethanol. As a result, in many cases, the Breathalyzer’s BAC result might be artificially high.
- Mouth Alcohol: A Breathalyzer myth holds that sucking on a penny reduces the defendant’s BAC level. This myth is partially based on fact. If the defendant burped or vomited in the fifteen minutes prior to the test, stomach alcohol particles flood the mouth, artificially raising the defendant’s BAC.
- Recent Consumption: Digestively, most alcohol travels from the mouth to the stomach to the liver to the blood. Because of this long process, alcohol consumed within the last hour might not have yet reached the blood. Once again, the BAC estimate is artificially high.
To drive home these points with jurors, Rochester DWI lawyers often partner with chemists. These witnesses explain these flaws to jurors. And, they have more credibility than the Breathalyzer techs that Monroe County prosecutors typically use.
Blood tests are much more accurate than breath tests. However, there may be some procedural issues. For example, if there is a gap in the chain of custody, a DWI lawyer Rochester might establish reasonable doubt as to the sample’s validity.
Frequently, intoxication is the only material issue in a DWI case. However, in some situations, the defendant could be drunk and a DWI lawyer Rochester can still successfully resolve the case. Some of these defenses include:
- Public Place: It is only illegal to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated in a public place. Shopping mall and apartment complex parking areas are not public places, even if they have traffic control devices and/or street names.
- Operating a Vehicle: In New York, “driving” is not an element of Driving while Intoxicated. Prosecutors must simply show that the defendant was operating the vehicle. Usually, that means behind the wheel of an operable vehicle. Lots of situations are in grey areas, such as a parked car with no gas or a parked car not in a public place.
- Reasonable Suspicion/Probable Cause: Generally, these are the evidentiary standards for a police stop and an arrest, respectively. Prosecutors have the burden of proof, and in many cases, the evidence simply is not there, or it is inadmissible because of a technicality.
A successful resolution could be a not-guilty verdict at trial, a pretrial dismissal, or a plea to a lesser-included offense, such as DWAI (driving while alcohol-impaired).
Contact a Dedicated Lawyer
Punishments for second-time DWI offenders are harsh, but not inevitable. For a free consultation with an experienced DWI lawyer Rochester, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.