Impacts of Recent DWI Trends on Negotiating with the DA’s Office
by Seth Azria on 3/07/2016
Negotiations for DWI Reductions have Become More Difficult
The recent trends in DWI prosecution have made it harder to negotiate with the local DA’s offices in DWI cases—and again, some individual counties have their own policies in terms of how they handle alcohol-related offenses. It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain the type of disposition for your client that you could have received five or six years ago, simply by demanding it. For many years it was almost assumed that a first time DWI defendant, who was not involved in an accident and whose BAC was not very high, could receive an offer of a DWAI, a violation level offense. Now in many New York counties it is not so routine, and many first time defendants are being treated more seriously that just a few years ago.
Tougher Laws and Punishments Send Message to Those Charged but Do Not Seem to Deter New DWI Charges
As noted, the legislative changes we have seen in recent years with respect to DWI offenses—i.e., mandatory jail sentences, divestiture of your license for at least five years—have put both DA’s offices and law enforcement agencies on notice that the state is taking DWI charges very seriously. While I believe that these actions are working as far as sending a message to the people who are being convicted of DWI, my personal belief is that they are not sending a message to the people who are drinking and driving, but have not yet been caught—i.e., they are not being dissuaded by the new legislation. Also, there are even some attorneys who are simply not aware of how frequently the DWI laws, including punishments for alcohol-related offenses, change in New York. This is an area that you need to be constantly aware of because it is always in flux. While most defense attorneys would agree that New York State is relatively defendant-friendly in terms of discovery, our laws in terms of incarceration are pretty strict in DWI cases. Again, while we have very tough DWI laws in our state, including Leandra’s Law, there is at least one Leandra’s Law violation every single month, year round in my court. While there are a lot of strong DWI laws on the books, groups such as MADD are helping to push through the type of legislation that was passed in 2013, and there have been TV campaigns aimed at discouraging drunk driving, those actions do not seem to be lowering the number of persons being charged with alcohol and driving related offenses.
This article was adapted from partner David C. Bruffett's chapter in "Inside the Minds: Strategies for Defending DWI Cases in New York, 2015 ed. published by Aspatore Books. Please call (315) 364-1155 or email us for a free consultation with Mr. Bruffett about your DWI case.