Criminal Charges from Drunk Driving Accidents

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

On July 19, 2012, a Westbury, New York resident's car spun out of control and went airborne on a Long Island expressway service road in Brentwood. The car slammed into the side of a 7-11 convenience store. According to police the driver was drunk, with a blood alcohol content (BAC) more than three times the legal limit of 0.08.

Unfortunately, the driver's pregnant wife was also injured and gave birth after an emergency C-section. The baby survived, but the driver's daughter died from her injuries about a week later. The motorist now faces several charges including driving while intoxicated (DWI) and vehicular homicide charges. If convicted, the motorist faces up to 25 years in prison.

DWI Charges in New York

New York has several criminal charges for impaired driving. Driving while ability impaired (DWAI) charges are for BACs between 0.05 and 0.07 and DWI charges arise when the BAC is 0.08 or higher. The charge becomes aggravated driving while intoxicated (Agg-DWI) when the BAC is 0.18 or higher. When drugs are involved, driving while ability impaired by drugs (DWAI-Drugs) or driving while ability impaired by combined alcohol and drug (DWAI-Combination) charges may follow.

First convictions for DWI, Agg-DWI, DWAI-Drugs and DWAI-Combination offenses are misdemeanors with a potential one-year jail term. Second offenses within 10 years are Class E felonies with a possible four-year prison term. If there is a third offense during those 10 years, a Class D felony can result in a prison term of up to seven years. Each type of DWI offense carries its own minimum license suspension.

Serious Penalties for Drunk Driving Accidents

The penalties quickly increase if anyone is injured or killed in a car accident because of another's impaired driving. In addition to DWI charges, tragic accidents can result in vehicular assault, manslaughter or homicide, or the aggravated versions of those offenses. Vehicular assault, a class D felony, is charged when injuries short of death are caused by a driver's recklessness. The assault becomes aggravated when the driver's BAC is 0.18 or more, making it a class C felony with up to 15 years in prison.

Vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide charges follow when someone dies because of a driver's recklessness. Aggravated vehicular manslaughter (vehicular manslaughter in the first degree) and aggravated vehicular homicide result when the driver's BAC is 0.18 or more. Aggravated vehicular manslaughter is a class C felony offense with a possible prison term of up to 15 years. Aggravated vehicular homicide is a class B felony with a possible prison term capped at 25 years.

New York criminal charges involving driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol carry serious penalties. Prison, jail, fines and license suspensions can have a significant and lasting impact on a person's life and their family. For that reason, it is crucial that anyone charged with a DWI-type offense consult with an experienced attorney to discuss their situation and their options.