When most people think about felony driving under the influence cases, they imagine drunk drivers doing extensive damage to property and to other people, even causing a death. Others might be prompted to consider drivers who are cited for DWI after numerous prior convictions for the same offense. But a recent report is illustrative of the fact that with no prior convictions (indeed, even with a spotless driving record), no property damage, no personal injury, and no accident, a single episode of drunk or drugged driving can result in a felony charge.
The case involved a Bronx man who was traveling down the road in Suffolk County, Long Island on Memorial Day weekend with seven passengers in his car. He was allegedly observed driving “erratically”, weaving, and crossing over a double line in the roadway. The driver was eventually placed under arrest for DWI, but not before police discovered that the passengers in his vehicle included three children, one age 14, and two age 11.
The result was the filing of numerous charges against the driver. In addition to DWI, they include:
- Aggravated DWI. Under §1192 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, if you drive in violation of the DWI law, and there is a person fifteen years of age or younger in your vehicle, you can be charged with aggravated DWI. This is a class E felony. The offense is commonly known as Leandra’s law, and a conviction could lead to a sentence of up to four years in prison.
- Child endangerment (three counts). The driver was also charged with three counts (one for each child passenger) of endangering the welfare of a child. Under §260.10 of the Penal Law, child endangerment consists, among other things, of knowingly acting in a way that is likely to cause injury to a child under the age of 17. Child endangerment is a class A misdemeanor.
We don’t know the specifics of the case, and the driver is, in our view, innocent until proven guilty. But the lesson in this case, no matter how it turns out in the end, is that you do not need to cause injuries, to have a history of drunk driving convictions, or even to get into an accident in order to be charged with felony DWI. Once you get behind the wheel of a car after drinking or using drugs, you could find yourself facing some very serious charges.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016