Drunk Drivers May Get Off Easier In West New York State
New York State is not a place you want to be caught drunk driving. It’s well known as one of the states in the USA with strict drunk driving penalties, and even first time driving while impaired offenders (DWI) may be charged with misdemeanor DWI.
Although New York has different distinctions for driving while intoxicated including DWI with alcohol, DWI with drugs, and Aggravated DWI, a local news crew did some digging recently and discovered that drivers in New York states’ Erie County have not been facing DWI punishments in the same way the rest of the state has. Of the 2600 people charged with misdemeanor DWI in Erie County, only 17 percent were convicted of the charge.
The general theory is that judges in Western New York are more lenient when it comes to convicting drunk drivers of DWI. The data backs up that theory – in 2012 alone 83 percent of Erie County drivers who were charged with misdemeanor DWI had the charge reduced or dropped altogether. An example cited by News 4 in New York showed that if the DWI is the offender’s first arrest, they were not involved in an accident, and the driver’s blood alcohol level was not above .13, the Erie County prosecutor would allow the driver to skip the misdemeanor DWI and plead to a lesser offense of driving while impaired (DWI).
In New York, a misdemeanor DWI is a serious crime, but the per se violation driving while impaired is considered a traffic violation. Local district attorneys feel as though judges in the Western part of the state want to give first time offenders a break and let them off easy, but groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) don’t support leniency for first time offenders anywhere in the USA. The group is behind efforts to require ignition interlock devices for first time offenders all across the country, and New York State is no exception.
Although 96% of drunk driving offenses in New York states result in some sort of punishment for the offender, state law enforcement and MADD want to see stiffer consequences for all types of DWI in New York.