In New York, a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) offense becomes a felony under specific circumstances. DWI is typically considered a misdemeanor in New York, but it can be elevated to a felony if certain aggravating factors are present. These factors are often related to the seriousness of the offense and the offender’s prior criminal history. As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, here are the situations in which a DWI can become a felony in New York:
- DWI as a Felony Offense for Repeat Offenders (Prior Convictions): A DWI can become a felony if an individual has a previous DWI or DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) conviction within the past ten years. This is known as a “prior conviction” or “predicate DWI.” If you have a prior DWI or DWAI conviction and are arrested for DWI again within ten years of the previous conviction, the new DWI can be charged as a felony.
- DWI as a Felony with Certain Aggravating Factors: A DWI can also be charged as a felony if certain aggravating factors are present, regardless of the offender’s prior convictions. These factors include:
- Leandra’s Law Offense: If a person is arrested for DWI while a child who is 15 years of age or younger is a passenger in the vehicle, it can be charged as a felony under Leandra’s Law. This offense is classified as Aggravated DWI with a Child in the Vehicle and is a Class E felony.
- Chemical Test Refusal and a Prior Conviction: Refusing a chemical test (such as a breathalyzer or blood test) and having a prior DWI conviction within the past ten years can result in a felony DWI charge.
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It’s important to note that laws can change, and penalties can vary based on the specific circumstances of each case. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with a legal professional who is knowledgeable about New York state’s current DWI laws if you are facing a DWI charge.
An attorney can provide you with the most up-to-date information and guidance on how to handle your specific situation, including potential defenses and legal options.