If you get any traffic violations in Suffolk County you need to read this now!
In New York and Suffolk County, there are differing levels of seriousness to traffic violations. Many result in only a moderate fine. Some are misdemeanor or even felony charges, however. When you are faced with a serious charge of this nature, it’s time to consider bringing in an experienced attorney.
In today’s post we’ll review five common categories of charges for which it’s going to be beneficial to seek the services of a criminal defense attorney.
1. Reckless Driving
A charge of “reckless driving” differs from lesser moving violations (such as careless driving) in that the police believe the driver had a conscious disregard for traffic violations laws and safety procedures that put other drivers in jeopardy. The specific terms can be found in Section 1212 of the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law.
New York takes reckless driving more seriously than some states do. Here, it is a misdemeanor charge that carries up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $300 with a first offense, along with it becoming part of your criminal record and adding five points to your driving record. The jail time can go up to 180 days if it is not your first offense.
Any motorized vehicle is subject to this charge. It doesn’t matter if it is a moped or scooter that stands little chance of damaging other vehicles; the charge remains the same. Motorcycles are commonly charged with reckless driving for doing things like splitting lanes or moving frequently between traffic lanes while passing other vehicles.
The key to a reckless driving charge is that the state or locality has to prove intent. They must demonstrate that the driver knew the rules of the road and knew that their violation would cause others to be in danger, but deliberately chose to ignore the risks. Convincing the court that this intent was not actually present and that the charge should therefore be reduced is where a skilled attorney can help you.
2. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) / Driving Under The Influence (DUI)
In New York, there are several tiers of DWI charge.
- If you drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 to .07, you will be charged with a DWAI.
- You face a DWI charge if your BAC is at .08 or greater. If you are driving a commercial vehicle at the time, this number is halved.
- The highest charge of this nature is an aggravated DWI, which comes into play if your BAC is .18 or greater when stopped.
If you are under the age of 21, there are even tighter restrictions on driving while impaired. A BAC as low as .02 will get underage drivers a “zero tolerance” violation.
Driving under the influence of drugs also applies here. Any amount of an illegal drug detected in your system will get you at least a DWAI/Drug charge, and if another drug or alcohol is additionally present, it becomes a DWAI/Combination. The issue of being under the influence of drugs raises a problem for users of prescription medications that will trip a drug test. For example, the many people that legally take opioid-based pain relievers, such as Oxycodone. Regardless of the legality of your prescription, DWAI/Drug charges still apply if they are in your system while driving.
New York is quite harsh on impaired drivers. The lowest tier of charges, DWAI, brings a fine of up to $500, a jail sentence of up to 15 days, and a license suspension of three months. A DWAI combination where drugs are involved can get you a year in jail with no prior record. And at only your second DWI or DWAI/Drug charge, you are looking at felony sentences with years of jail time and thousands of dollars worth of fines.
3. Vehicular Assault / Vehicular Homicide
If you seriously injure someone while operating a motor vehicle, you may be subject to a charge of vehicular assault under New York law. If the person dies, that charge may advance to vehicular manslaughter or homicide.
The full details of what actions can bring these charges are spelled out in New York Penal Law sections 120.03 and 125.13. These are densely written laws, however, so we will provide a brief summary here.
You may be facing a charge of this nature if any of the following circumstances came into play in the accident, regardless of your intent while driving:
- You were under the influence of a drug
- You were piloting a large commercial vehicle (such as a tanker truck) containing flammable or explosive material, and that material caused the injury
- You meet the conditions for an aggravated DWI (.18 BAC)
- Your license was suspended or revoked at the time of the accident
- A child was a passenger in your vehicle at the time and died as a result of the accident
These are all felony charges. A vehicular assault ranges from Class E to Class C depending on the circumstances. Vehicular manslaughter is a Class D or C felony that can bring a maximum sentence of 15 years for the most serious charges. The most serious form of vehicular homicide, an “aggravated” charge, is a Class B felony with a minimum sentence of 20 years.
4. CMV / CDL Disqualifications
If you’re a professional driver, your commercial driver’s license is as vital to your ability to make your living as a tool belt is to a construction worker. That puts you in serious trouble when it is suspended.
There is a fairly long list of potential charges that can cause a commercial license to be suspended temporarily. Among these are:
- A DWI while driving a commercial vehicle
- Refusal to take a breathalyzer or similar test after being pulled over by the police
- Negligent driving leading to any sort of fatality
- Using a commercial vehicle in the process of committing any sort of felony
- Fleeing the scene of an accident
- Multiple reckless or erratic traffic violations, or speeding at more than 15 miles per hour over the posted limit
- Not having proper endorsements for the cargo being carried
- Receiving 11 or more points against your license within a period of 18 months
- Multiple citations for not following proper procedures when crossing railroad tracks
Additionally, driving a commercial vehicle while your CDL is suspended or revoked carries some pretty hefty penalties in New York. A skilled attorney can help to get charges reduced in order to retain your ability to work, and in some cases may even be able to get charges dismissed.
5. Driving With A Suspended Or Revoked License
Driving without a license is no small matter in New York. You are looking at a misdemeanor charge at minimum, if not a felony, depending on the circumstances.
The charge the state will bring if you are caught driving without a license is “Aggravated Unlicensed Operation.” There are three degrees of this charge. The lowest, the third degree, is a misdemeanor that carries a mandatory fine of $200-500 plus the possibility of 30 days of incarceration. A second degree charge is also a misdemeanor but increases the fine to a mandatory $500 and some period of mandatory imprisonment, at least one week with a maximum of 180 days. The most serious charge, first degree, is a felony. You are looking at a fine of anywhere from $500 to $5000 and mandatory incarceration or probation of up to four years as well as having your vehicle seized.
It’s important to keep in mind that your license can be suspended for things that have nothing to do with driving. Even if you are always a perfectly safe and responsible driver, you can still lose your license indefinitely for failure to pay child support or writing a bad check to the DMV for any sort of fees, just to name a couple of common possibilities.
Are you facing a serious charge related to an automobile in Suffolk County? Contact the offices of Matthew Tuohy Esquire for skilled representation and individualized attention to your case. Your initial consultation is free, and we can arrange to visit you at your home or hospital if you are not able to travel.