Penalties for felony DWI convictions vary in New York

Last month, we discussed a drunk driving case that was receiving national attention. The case involved a teenager who was sentenced to 10 years of probation, and no jail time, for multiple counts of intoxication manslaughter. In the aftermath of that controversial sentencing, people all over the country, including here in New York, have been discussing DWI sentencing standards.

While some states have mandatory minimum sentences for drunk driving-related car accidents, New York does not. New York judges instead have considerable discretion when sentencing DWI offenders in cases that involve injuries or fatalities.

For example, if a driver is convicted of the class D felony of first-degree vehicular assault, a judge might sentence him or her to anything between one and seven years behind bars. While judges are supposed to consider a variety of factors when sentencing DWI offenders - such as their criminal histories and the extent of the injuries involved - the guidelines do not ensure that similar cases result in similar penalties.

From 1996 to 2012, 36 people were sentenced to prison for one count of first-degree vehicular assault in New York; only a few of them received the maximum sentence. However, that does not mean that most judges go easy on DWI offenders. On the contrary, prosecutors and judges are very motivated to ensure DWI offenders face serious penalties.

Those who face DWI charges in New York are often unable to predict the potential penalties of a conviction. It is important for those who face DWI charges to talk to a DWI attorney about their options and potential strategies to resolve their cases on more favorable terms.

Source:, "Length of fatal drunk-driving sentences in N.Y? It depends," Steve Reilly, Dec. 28, 2013

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