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Charged with DWI: Now What Happens to My Driver's License?

The consequences of being charged with DWI are numerous and severe. If you are convicted of an alcohol-related driving offense, you can expect punishment from the court (including fines, surcharges, probation supervision and possibly incarceration), but you will also face stiff penalties from both the court and the Department of Motor Vehicles with regard to your ability to drive. Surprising to most new DWI clients is that these sanctions against your driver’s license begin at your first appearance in court, even before you are actually convicted of anything.

Prompt Suspension

Under Vehicle and Traffic Law §1193(2)(e)(7), if the court has a certified chemical breath test result that shows your BAC was at or above .08% at the time you were charged with DWI, the judge must suspend your license pending prosecution of the charges against you. This means that your license is taken from you the first time you appear in court to be arraigned on the charges provided the court has the certified results of your chemical breath test. This suspension remains in effect until your charges are resolved in court.

“Implied Consent”

So if you refused to give a chemical breath test to the arresting officer than you avoid your license being taken under VTL §1193(2)(e)(7) and are able to drive, right? WRONG! If you properly advised of the consequences of refusing to give the breath test and still refused to provide a breath sample, then the DMV will act to promptly revoke your license under the “implied consent” statute of VTL §1194(2)(d). Under this law, upon being issued a driver’s license, the motorist agrees to provide a breath sample for testing in the event they are charged with a driving under the influence. If the motorist then later refuses to provide a chemical breath test, their license is subject to a one-year revocation, regardless if they are ultimately convicted of an alcohol-related driving offense. The motorist is entitled to a promptly scheduled hearing with a DMV administrative law judge; however, few motorists are successful in these hearings and their license is usually revoked within a few weeks of their arrest.

Hardship Privilege

If your license is suspended pending prosecution at your arraignment do you have any ability to drive? The answer is possibly, depending upon your circumstances. VTL §1193(7)(e) provides for a motorist who does not have any prior alcohol-related convictions within the last five years to apply for what is commonly referred to as a hardship privilege. If the judge grants the motorist a hardship privilege, it allows the motorist to drive only to and from work, to and from medical appointments and to and from secondary education classes. The motorist cannot drive for any other purpose or at any other times under a hardship privilege.

Conditional License

Assuming the motorist does not have any other alcohol-related convictions within the last five years and is otherwise eligible, they will be eligible for a conditional license through DMV once their license has been suspended pending prosecution for 30 days. A conditional license allows the motorist to drive not only to and from work but also for work (such a person who does traveling sales calls). A conditional license also allows a motorist drive to and from medical appointments, to drive their children to and from daycare if it is necessary for the motorist to work or go to school and it provides for a three-hour block of unrestricted driving once a week that the motorist establishes with the DMV.

If you’re charged with DWI, you need knowledgeable representation

Competent and effective DWI representation requires much more than just knowing the consequences of a DWI in court. It requires attorneys who intimately know the laws and regulations that apply to your driving privileges once you are charged with a DWI. If you find yourself charged with a DWI and need an attorney who knows how to properly navigate these laws so that you can maintain an ability to drive, contact us at Green & Brenneck and will take the time to make sure you know your options and have the best possible representation to protect your driving privileges.