Unfairness of DWI Prosecution


Next to a sex offense or a murder, DWI Defendant Drivers charged with DWI driving, are the most zealously prosecuted offenses on Long Island. The grossly unfair treatment by the Legislature and by (DA) District Attorneys Offices of DWI Drivers charged with DWI prosecutions, as opposed to other crimes, is appalling when one considers the lack of recent efforts that the NY State Legislature and County District Attorney Offices (DA) have made in the prosecution of Drug Cases.   While New York State has continued to reduce the penalties and sentences for Convicted Drug Users and Convicted Drug Dealers, it has at the same time increased the penalties and sentences for Drivers accused of DWI.

Convictions for a DWI Driver can mean the loss of a person’s job, especially if someone drives for a living. Many employers, will not continue to employ a person convicted of DWI, or even hire such a person.  The person who is convicted is not the only person who will suffer, the DWI driver's family also suffers, through the loss of income and damage to a person’s reputation. Many of our elected officials fail to focus on or even consider the serious consequences that stem from a conviction for DWI when instituting a policy.   Instead, they succumb to the pressure from groups like MADD to institute harsher treatment against those charged with DWI and Drivers convicted of DWI.

For example currently, most District Attorney Offices on Long Island will require that a person charged with DWI for the first time, who has .13 or more in a Breath Test reading, to plead guilty to the Misdemeanor, no matter what the circumstances or the negative effect is on the life of the DWI Driver or their family.  This Criminal Conviction of a DWI will remain with this individual for the rest of their life.  While other types of criminal charges are routinely pled down, A DWI of .13 or more is rarely if ever pled down.  The same holds true for persons charged with DWI as a result of a Refusal to Submit to a Breath Test. On the other hand people arrested for drug charges, even Felony possession and Felony Sales are permitted to enter into drug court or drug programs and, upon successful completion, the charge is either dismissed with no criminal record to follow this person, or pled down to a non-criminal offense.  In essence, this person is given a second chance to start anew.   The New York Judicial Diversion Program for Drug Offenses also allows these individuals to seal their previous convictions on their record from the public, i.e.: preventing   employers, schools, etc., from seeing previous convictions. The rationale for these programs and that policy is simple and recognizes that a person may make a mistake based upon a lapse in judgment and should not suffer the consequences for the rest of their life.

This aforementioned rationale is not extended to Drivers charged with DWI.   No such program or policy exists for People charged with DWI who are above a .13 reading even though Alcohol is of course a drug.  Despite this, the NY State Legislature and Local County District Attorney Offices treat a Driver charged with DWI much harsher than those charged with a Drug Offense. Instead of trying to educate and rehabilitate a DWI Driver as they do in Drug Cases, their focus is on punishment of the DWI driver; branding a DWI Driver as a criminal for the rest of their life for a one time error in judgment which did not result in an injury to anyone.

A conviction for a Misdemeanor DWI is particularly damaging to young people who have not yet started their lives.  A conviction for a Misdemeanor DWI can affect their ability to receive financial aid for College, and even entrance into some colleges.  A conviction for a Misdemeanor DWI can also bar their ability to obtain employment in various areas of employment, such as teachers, law enforcement and a multitude of government and non-government jobs.   Moreover, after a conviction for a Misdemeanor DWI, professional licenses like medical and law licenses are at risk.  Unlike other progressive states, New York State does not have an expungement statute whereby after a number a years a person can apply to the Court to get their record expunged or wiped clean.  A conviction for a DWI in New York remains with a person for life.

Given the unwavering policies of many County District Attorney Offices many charged with DWI driving are forced to go to trial to protect their livelihood or the future of their children.  Not only does this incur a great expense on the DWI defendant or his family, but also on the County and Taxpayer.  Compassionate and educated juries, many times realizing the unjustness of the situation and serious repercussions on the defendants’ life, and that of their family, will acquit the defendant of the DWI charges, or compromise on the lesser included offense of 1192.1, which is Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol, rather than convict of the top counts which are misdemeanors. In other times, they acquit the Person of all charges. These juries  realize that under the law, they do not have to accept the reading of the breath test as accurate or the Police Officers version of the events or opinions as accurate,  and applying the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt they acquit.  A verdict of not guilty is non- reviewable and thus cannot be appealed by the Prosecution.