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Is a DWI a Felony?

Overview of Felony DWI Definition

Generally, a New York Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) will be charged as a misdemeanor. A driver who commits a DWI within ten years of a previous DWI or DWI related conviction or convictions (other than for the traffic infraction of Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol, DWAI) can generally be charged with a felony DWI. The “Class” of the felony depends on the number of prior convictions, as well as the time frame in which they occurred. In addition, relatively new regulations at the Department of Motor Vehicles may prevent the re-licensure of individuals with multiple Alcohol Related Driving Incidents.


The following are other ways you can get charged for a felony DWI:

  • Driving Drunk while having a passenger in the motor vehicle who is a child 15 years of age or younger
  • Driving drunk and causing serious physical injury or death of another person other than the driver

Many people believe that a crime called Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated or Aggravated DWI is also a felony. Aggravated DWI is committed when a person is caught operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .18 or above. However, Aggravated DWI, despite its enhanced penalties, is not a felony rather it is a misdemeanor. Conviction for Aggravated DWI may result in a longer revocation of your driving privileges than a conviction for a standard DWI charge.



A felony DWI conviction for being convicted of two DWI offenses within a span of ten years may result in a prison sentence of up to four years and a fine between $1,000 and $5,000. A third DWI conviction is considered a Class D felony, punishable by a maximum prison sentence of seven years, as well as a fine between $2,000 and $10,000.

In addition, under certain circumstances discussed on our Aggravated Unlicensed Operation in the First Degree Page a person who is Driving Drunk who may not be charged with a felony DWI but can be charged with a felony Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO in the 1st Degree). These circumstances include:

  • Driving drunk after having been convicted of AUO in the preceding 18 months
  • Committing DWI while suspended for refusing to submit to a chemical test
  • Committing DWI while their license is suspended pending prosecution for a previous DWI
  • Committing DWI while they have three or more suspensions for failure to answer, appear or pay a fine

Aggravated Unlicensed Operation as a felony also carries severe penalties, including the possibility of jail or prison.

Get the Experienced Help of Tilem & Associates

At Tilem & Associates, our White Plains DWI attorneys know what it takes to get your charges reduced, or case dismissed altogether. Our lawyers not only know the New York DWI laws, but also understand the science behind breath tests and standardized field sobriety tests. They understand the severe criminal penalties and potential collateral consequences of a DWI conviction. With more than 25 years of experience, our legal team can review your case and determine all of your legal options in order to obtain the most favorable outcome possible.

If you have been arrested and charged with a DWI in While Plains, NY, New York City or the surrounding area, contact us for a free consultation today.

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