Glenn R. Bruno, Esq.
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New York prosecutor launches DWI rehabilitation program

Wearing an alcohol monitoring bracelet for 90 days and attending alcohol-related counseling and victim impact panels could help motorists in one New York county to keep their criminal records clean after being arrested for drunk driving for the first time. Participation in the program, which was launched by the Broome County District Attorney's Office in January, will only be offered to first-time DWI offenders who were not involved in accidents, caused no injuries and were not cited for reckless driving.

Participants will be expected to pay $8 per day for 90 days to cover the costs of the monitoring bracelets, which alert the authorities when alcohol is consumed. Reports indicate that 22 people have already enrolled. Upon successful completion of the program, the criminal charge of driving while intoxicated will be reduced to the traffic violation of driving while ability impaired. While participants are able to avoid a criminal record, the traffic violation will remain on their driving records for 10 years.

In addition to losing their driver's licenses for 90 days, individuals who admit to driving while ability impaired will be ordered to pay a fine of between $300 and $500 and could also be sent to a country jail for up to 15 days. Prosecutors say that penalties will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The goals of the program are to reduce drunk driving recidivism and identify individuals with serious substance abuse problems who could benefit from more rigorous interventions.

Driving while intoxicated charges are often reduced for first-time drunk driving offenders in New York even when programs like the one in Broome County are not available. When discussing plea arrangements in these cases, experienced criminal defense attorneys may point out mitigating factors to prosecutors such as sincere remorse, a previously unblemished record and full-time gainful employment.

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