Frequently Asked DWI Questions

DWI laws in New York State are a jumble of statutes, updates and case law decisions amassed over the years. Only a lawyer qualified by years of experience pleading drunk driving cases can speak with any authority about the charges made against you.

Because of the many colleges in the Buffalo area, and the frequency of student arrests for DWI, underage DWI and DWAI, we have compiled answers to some of the most common questions.

How serious is a DWI arrest in Erie County?

What's the difference between DWI and DWAI?

What can I do to help my defense?

What should I say to the police?

If I'm convicted, will I lose my driving privileges?


How serious is a DWI arrest in Erie County?

Very serious. If found guilty of a first-time offense, you can expect to lose your license, pay a heavy fine, to have your insurance premiums increased and possibly go to jail. It may affect your ability to work or attend school. For multiple-offense convictions, consequences are much, much worse.

What's the difference between DWI and DWAI?

DWAI (driving while ability impaired) is less serious than DWI (driving while intoxicated). DWAI is a violation, not a crime. Simple DWI is a misdemeanor crime. Subsequent DWIs can reach felony level. One common defense for DWI is to plead it down to DWAI. By pleading guilty to DWAI, you are pleading guilty to a violation and not to a crime and may avoid having a criminal record.

What can I do to help my defense?

The best thing you can do is compile an accurate record of what happened. The prosecution's case depends on many factors: whether the stop was justified, whether the search was lawful, whether you were read your rights, and whether the field sobriety and breath alcohol tests were conducted properly. We don't have to prove you were not drinking. The state must prove that proper procedures were followed, and that your rights were not violated.

What should I say to the police?

As little as possible. The police are doing their job, which is to provide prosecutors with a case that leads to your conviction. Do not be misled by their friendly tone. It is very easy to say the wrong thing once you get talking. It is much better to leave the talking to an experienced DWI attorney who really does have your best interests at heart!

If I'm convicted, will I lose my driving privileges?

It's possible. The judge is required to take your license if the charging documents are legally sufficient and if you were found to have a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater. If we are able to offer any evidence that rebuts the charges, you may be able to hold onto your license until the case is resolved. You may also request a hardship license, allowing you to drive to and from work. We can help you make this request.

There are many other complex issues involved in DWI cases. Call Timothy J. Hennessy, PLLC of Williamsville at 716-276-0980, or email him. He'll be happy to answer basic questions, whether you decide to work with him or not.