A Bills victory. A Bills loss. A trip to Canada. A U.S. victory over Canada, in anything. A hockey game. The last snow melted. The first snow fell. The snow is 5 feet high and you can't get out. A big plate of chicken wings. The kitchen's out of chicken wings. There are so many reasons to have a drink in Buffalo. Just be sure someone else is driving if you're doing the drinking, or be sure you're so snowed in there's no chance of taking a car (or snowmobile) anywhere. Otherwise, you run the risk of a DWI conviction. Read on to find out what that means in Buffalo, New York.
What is a New York DWI?
In New York, DWI stands for "Driving While Intoxicated" You might have also seen the abbreviation DUI (Driving Under the Influence), which most likely refers to similar crimes in other states. Someone is guilty of a DWI in New York when:
- He or she operates a motor vehicle, which includes bicycles;
- with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher; or
- while under the influence of a chemical substance to the extent that her normal faculties are impaired.
Notice that you could still be guilty of a DWI even if you used a substance other than alcohol. Whether you had a prescription or other right to use the substance does not matter. You could also be convicted of a DWI if your BAC is .08 or higher, regardless of whether your driving is actually impaired.
Buffalo DWI Stops
DWI stops in Buffalo work much the same way as DWI stops around the state. First, the police officer may observe that someone is driving erratically or notice something odd at a DWI checkpoint. Once stopped, the officer can question the driver or may perform a field sobriety test. If the officer concludes that the driver's faculties were impaired, then they can arrest the driver.
Buffalo DWI Process
After a police officer arrests a driver for DWI, she may decide to administer a breathalyzer test. Florida drivers must submit to chemical drug testing under the state's implied consent laws, which say that drivers consent to drug tests when they obtain their driver's license.
The police officer will then take the driver to the Police Department's Central Booking for booking. The driver may be held there for up to 8 hours, or until his faculties are no longer impaired. He may then be released on bail, which is a promise to return to court in exchange for money.
The case may then proceed to an arraignment, where the driver will plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If the driver pleads not guilty, the facts will be examined in a criminal trial; otherwise, the case will proceed straight to sentencing. Criminal procedures, like DUI trials, are held in the Buffalo City Court.
Buffalo DWI Consequences
The consequences for a DWI vary depending on how many prior convictions a driver has within the past 10 years. The New York DMV has some good information about different types of DWI offenses and their penalties. In general, the penalties include fines, incarceration, and community service, and those get more serious with each subsequent offense. If you happen to have more than one conviction within the past 5 or 10 years, the penalties escalate faster. Penalties can double if there was a child in the vehicle, or if the driver's BAC was .15 or higher.
Someone who is convicted of a DWI in New York will lose her license -- even if it is her first conviction. The period of suspension begins at 90 days and gets longer with each subsequent offense. However, first time offenders have the option of applying for a hardship reinstatement, going to DWI school, and maybe installing an ignition interlock device on their car in order to get on the road faster.
For more information, see FindLaw's sections on DUI/DWI and criminal procedure. For information specific to a particular case, it may be best to consult with a local DWI attorney.