A Review of New York State's STOP-DWI Program

Current National and State Laws in New York State

The State of New York began its enactment of core impaired-driving laws in 1980. Two key laws that form the foundation for New York’s program are:

  1. Plea Bargain Limitations - New York is one of few States to have a two-tier system for alcohol violations. The two-tier system allows the State to have the “no-plea-bargaining-out-of-alcohol” law. Offenders may have their DWI (.08+) arrests dropped to DWAI (.05+) convictions for first-time offenses, but may not plea to nonalcohol offenses (e.g., reckless driving). This is important to ensure the offender is still convicted under an alcohol offense, beginning the tracking system for repeat offenders.

  2. Judicial Per Se License Revocation - Section 1193[2](e)(7)a of the Vehicle and Traffic Law requires mandatory loss of license if a driver takes a breath test and registers a BAC of .08 or higher, and the driver license is suspended no later than the conclusion of arraignment. Most States have Administrative License Revocation (ALR) laws, which provide a 15-day temporary license until a hearing can be scheduled. New York’s Judicial Per Se License Revocation law is swifter. As a precursor to the Judicial Per Se legislation, New York had its own ALR law whereby only repeat alcohol offenders’ driving privileges were suspended pending prosecution.

These are two laws that every State could adopt independent of a local option STOP-DWI Law. The other two core laws that shape impaired driving control and prevention in New York are the 1981 STOP-DWI Law and its associated mandatory minimum offender fines (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1998).

The examination of alcohol laws in the State poses special challenges. New York has not enacted hospital blood alcohol concentration reporting laws, mandatory alcohol assessments for first time offenders (requirement for second and subsequent offenses), treatment laws and/or high BAC (.15-.20) penalties. The question raised is whether current State laws require strengthening. New York alcohol laws have evolved in response to local needs, and in part, as a response to Federal mandates (e.g., incentives associated with .08 BAC or penalties for nonconformance with Open Container or Repeat Offender Laws). In speaking directly with State and local leaders in impaired-driving control and prevention, the simplicity of the STOP-DWI law and local flexibility were cited as central to the successful implementation of the program and to the reduction of impaired-driving crashes and fatalities in the State. More discussion about the political and social influences on the development and implementation of STOP-DWI follows.