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Punishment for DWI In New York Depends Where You Live, Report Shows

Following the 20-day jail sentence for former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose for a DUI offense in Michigan, some have questioned why there is so much discretion for judges state-by-state when it comes to this crime.

A new report by USA Today shows that where you get arrested for DUI plays a large role in what type of punishment you can face. It goes unargued that there is disparity in sentencing from state to state and usually judge to judge in all criminal cases in New York, not just in drunken driving charges. But fighting the charges, wherever they are, is essential.
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In Rose’s case, he was arrested in March in the Detroit suburb of West Bloomfield. Research shows that had he been arrested, for example, in Pontiac, another suburb, he likely wouldn’t have faced any time in jail, Michigan state statistics show. Rose crashed his Cadillac Escalade on March 11 and was arrested that day.

According to the news article, Rose’s case highlights the inconsistent punishment handed out for drunken drivers throughout the country. Alaska, Tennessee and Georgia are among the states with mandatory jail time for first offenders, locking up defendants for three, two and one day, respectively. California, Connecticut and Indiana, however, don’t require jail for first-time offenders.

In Wisconsin, the penalties are even weaker — a first-time offense for DUI isn’t even a crime. It’s a civil infraction that results in a ticket.

“There are no set guidelines on this. There’s no national standard on this,” said Alex R. Piquero, a criminology professor at the University of Texas-Dallas, who has studied drunken driving for more than 20 years. “There is a lot of discretion. It’s like a ref on the football field. Everyone holds on every play. Which one is the most egregious of the offense?”

The article cites statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that state that driving under the influence was blamed for 12,744 traffic deaths in 2009. FBI statistics show that 1.4 million people are arrested annually for DUI nationwide.

Some experts don’t believe that jail time is effective in reducing repeat DUI offenses. However, most say that sanctions, such as an ignition interlock device, which is installed in a vehicle and requires a person to blow into a tube and be sober to start the vehicle, are more effective.

In New York, a first-time offender can be charged with a felony and face up to four years in prison if there is a child in the car. In bordering New Jersey, a first-time offense requires a mandatory 12 hours in jail. In Connecticut, along with no jail time unless someone is injured or killed, the conviction can be expunged after completing an alcohol education program.

Obviously, location is a huge factor. But also a factor is the attorney chosen to defend the case. An aggressive criminal defense attorney can sometimes get key pieces of evidence thrown out of the case and prove that officer actions were improper in the handling of the investigation. The penalties are serious and require a defense that can protect the defendant’s rights.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides criminal defense in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.

Additional Resources:

Drunken-driving penalties could depend on your location, by John Wisely, USA Today and L.L. Brasier, Detroit Free Press