Allegations of impaired driving, also called driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving while ability impaired by alcohol (DWAI) can have lasting consequences for you as a citizen. Jail time, fines, a criminal record and the revocation of your license are all potential consequences of such charges.

Some people wind up facing DWI allegations because they didn’t realize they had too much to drink before getting behind the wheel. Other people could have medical conditions that impact their ability to process alcohol or that replicate the symptoms of impairment, leading to unnecessary arrests and criminal charges.

Regardless of what scenario led you to face DWI or DWAI charges in New York, you, no doubt, worry about the impact such charges will have on your future. One of the most important considerations when determining the long-term consequences of impaired driving charges is determining whether the charges are misdemeanor or felony offenses.

Many first-time offenses are misdemeanor charges

If this marks the first time that you have faced accusations of impaired driving, they are likely to be misdemeanor charges. So long as you don’t have any previous alcohol-related driving violations on your record, you will likely face consequences that include a maximum of a year in jail and a fine of between $500 and $1,000, as well as the loss of your license for between six months and a year.

However, the opposite is also true. If you have a previous alcohol-related driving offense on your record, New York State couldn’t very well charge you with a Class E felony or even a higher grade of felony depending on circumstances. That could mean facing up to four or even seven years in jail, as well as increased fines of up to $10,000. For some people, it could mean the permanent revocation of their license, if they have multiple previous alcohol-related driving convictions.

The charges shouldn’t relate to a collision that caused injury or property damage

Getting pulled over for impaired driving could lead to a first-time misdemeanor offense. Causing an accident, even if it is a one-vehicle crash, will likely mean that you face felony charges.

Impaired drivers who cause property damage or injury to other people are likely to face more serious charges than those who simply get pulled over for erratic or dangerous driving. They could also face civil lawsuits related to the damages caused by the crash.

Other factors can influence the charges you face

There are many other considerations that can lead to an impaired driving arrest. For example, were there children in your car at the time of the traffic stop? Driving impaired with minor children in your vehicle is likely to result in additional penalties and consequences.

Talking about the circumstances of your arrest with a lawyer can help you prepare a legal strategy for your pending charges.