Drunk driving charges are generally classified as misdemeanors but state prosecutors may use certain factors to elevate the charges to the felony level. Felony DWI is a more serious charge with more serious consequences. In New York, one of the elevating factors is an aggravated DWI, which is where the driver's blood alcohol content is more than over 0.15. The legal limit is 0.08.
Another elevating circumstances is driving while impaired with a passenger under the age of 15 in the vehicle. This law is titled Leandra's Law and recently came into play in one drunk driving arrest.
On July 14, police arrested a 32-year-old woman from Eastchester for driving while intoxicated with her two children, ages seven and five, in the car. The woman was charged with felony DWI after allegedly getting into an accident with an occupied parked car. She also received an aggravated DWI charge because of a 0.19 BAC, which is over twice the legal limit.
No one was injured in the accident, including her children. After arraignment, the woman was released on bail but her children were taken away from her care for the time being. According to the police, this was the woman's first DWI arrest.
Leandra's Law raises the level of the charges against the woman to a felony because both of her passengers were under the age of 15. Under the felony DWI charge, the woman may face stiffer penalties, including license suspension and jail time, even though this was her first arrest.
All defendants charged with DWI in New York, whether misdemeanor or felony, are presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is this presumption that provides defendants with the opportunity to protect their rights and fight to reduce the charges where applicable.
Source: The Journal News, "Eastchester woman charged with driving drunk with 2 kids in car," Will David, July 16, 2012