Did You Know That A First Time DWI Arrest Can Be Charged As A Felony?
To the average person, the idea of being charged with a felony conjures thoughts of committing a robbery, selling drugs, and the like; things that they could never imagine themselves doing. However, many people set the wheels in motion by simply leaving the house with their children to attend a barbecue, go out for dinner or attend a concert or a sporting event.
In the State of New York, and with one exception, a first time Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI”) offense will be charged as misdemeanor. This includes operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more, under the influence of drugs or under the influence the combined influence of drugs and alcohol. While these misdemeanor charges are bad enough on their own, it generally takes a second arrest, within ten years of a prior DWI conviction, to be charged with a felony.
But what about the driver who has too much to drink and drives home with their family in the car (specifically, with a child who is fifteen years of age or less, as a passenger)? Taking the child out of the equation, this individual faces being charged with a misdemeanor alcohol related driving offense. However, the 2009 passage of the Child Passenger Protection Act, also known as Leandra’s Law, makes it an automatic felony in the State of New York, even for a first time offender, if there is a a child passenger in their vehicle.
Since the passage of Leandra’s Law, the common thread I have found in speaking with and representing clients, many of whom have never had so much as a parking ticket in their lives, is that they were unaware that by simply adding a child passenger to the equation, that they are now faced with the potential of becoming a convicted felon. Of course, this doesn’t mean that minus the chance of being charged with a felony, that they would throw caution to the wind and drink or keep drinking, but keep in mind that even a driver with the minimum BAC level of .08 is subject to this automatic felony charge.
In a past blog post, I discussed the potential consequences upon being convicted of this felony offense and I encourage you to review this information by clicking here. However, the intended message is to spread awareness as to the existence of this law and how easily the average person can find themselves charged with a felony.
If you are charged with a violation of Leandra’s Law or any other Aggravated DWI, DWI or Criminal charge, please feel free to contact me to discuss your case, the potential consequences and what I can do to help.
Brian Berkowitz is a DWI, Criminal Defense and Traffic Ticket Lawyer located in Rockland County New York. Prior to entering the private practice of law in 2002, he worked in the Rockland County District Attorney's Office and served as the Senior Assistant District Attorney in charge of the office's Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Bureau.
Law Office of Brian Berkowitz, 222 North Main Street, New City, NY 10956. 845-638-9200.
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