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New York's "Prompt Suspension" Law

January 27, 2016

When faced with a charge of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), individuals have a number of questions regarding potential civil and criminal consequences.  While these questions are certainly important, there are also a number of preliminary issues that arise in the context of a DWI charge that are also deserving of some attention.  In this post, I want to address New York's "Prompt Suspension" Law and discuss what it means for DWI defendants.


Section 1193(2)(e)(7) of the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) provides as follows:


"(7) Suspension pending prosecution; excessive blood alcohol content.

        a. Except as provided in clause a-1 of this subparagraph, a court shall suspend a driver's   license, pending prosecution, of any person charged with [a DWI] who, at the time of arrest, is alleged to have had .08 of one percent or more by weight of alcohol in such driver's blood as shown by chemical analysis of blood, breath, urine, or saliva, made pursuant to [the statute]."


In accordance with that statutory language, whenever an individual comes before the court charged with DWI and registered a BAC reading of .08 or higher, the court is required to suspend that individual's driver's license until the case is resolved. This is incredibly unique and individuals are often caught off guard by the prospect of facing consequences before they have pleaded guilty or been convicted of anything.


In these cases, once an individual is arraigned on these charges and pleads not guilty, the court will suspend the individual's license for the duration of the proceedings.  A distinction at this point is appropriate - if an individual enters a plea of guilty and is sentenced at the arraignment, the prompt suspension law will not apply.  That individual will of course be subject to whatever licensing penalties are associated with the charge they are pleading to, but they will not have to concern themselves with the prompt suspension provisions of the Vehicle and Traffic Law.


In plain English, the prompt suspension law applies to defendants charged with DWI and are alleged to have had a BAC of .08 or more at the time of arrest who plead not guilty and do not have their case resolved at arraignment.  There are many reasons why a case may not be resolved immediately and it is not uncommon for a misdemeanor DWI case to require two or three court appearances before a plea agreement is reached.


In the event an individual has their license suspended, they may be eligible for a "hardship exemption."  In order to qualify, a defendant must demonstrate that such a suspension would impose extreme hardship (i.e., they would be unable to get to work or school or would miss necessary medical appointments).  It is important to note that even in the event an individual is granted a hardship exemption, they will not be permitted to drive to and from court, so they must plan accordingly.


As a final note, an out of state driver charged in New York with DWI and alleged to have had a BAC of .08 or more at the time of arrest will also be subject to the prompt suspension law - holding an out of state license is not a safe harbor in this instance.


As always, if you find yourself facing criminal charges please consult an attorney immediately as they will be able to give you an evaluation of your case.  Every case is different and no blog post or internet forum will be specifically tailored to the unique facts of an individual case.

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