DWI Law Change - .16 or More Is Now a Gross Misdemeanor and Worse

Effective August 1, 2015, the alcohol concentration level used to enhance the criminal penalties for a DWI will be lowered by .04 – a dramatic reduction in DWI law. A high alcohol concentration reading can be considered an aggravating factor used to enhance a first-time offense from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor. That level is currently a 0.20. Come August, that level will change to 0.16 – just twice the legal limit.

The reduction was made for a couple of reasons.

First, studies have found that the rate of accidents involving impaired drivers dramatically increases when a driver has an alcohol concentration level above 0.15. By increasing the penalties associated with a reading higher than this level, the idea is to deter this risky driving behavior. Second, reducing it to 0.16 brings it in line with the point at which administrative penalties get worse for the driver – such as a longer driver’s license revocation period. This, in a way, makes the DWI law more consistent with the implied consent law.

For an individual facing a DWI, this reduction of the aggravating factor could be significant. What was once a misdemeanor, is now be a gross misdemeanor. Worse yet, a second-time offense may now be enhanced to a second-degree DWI at this lower level, leading to the potential forfeiture of the vehicle. And this doesn’t even account for the fact that the lower alcohol concentration level will now require mandatory bail or conditional release – which is often set at $12,000.

A gross misdemeanor carries with it a possibility of one-year in jail and a hefty fine of $3,000. While an individual is unlikely to receive the maximum sentence, the reality is that plea negotiations will dramatically change. If you find yourself the victim of the new law change after August and are facing stiffer criminal penalties, now, more than ever, it is necessary to get experienced DWI attorneys to best lead you through this in order to obtain a favorable resolution – including possibly avoiding a gross misdemeanor conviction on your record.