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New York's highest court upholds controversial DWI rules

The New York State Court of Appeals voted unanimously on May 9 to uphold controversial rules that allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to permanently revoke the driving privileges of repeat drunk drivers. The 5-0 vote by the state's highest court brings a contentious lawsuit filed by three New York residents to an end. More than 13,600 applications for the reinstatement of driving privileges have been declined by the DMV commissioner since the rules went into effect in 2012 according to figures released by the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The judges concluded that the rules fell within the DMV's area of expertise and rejected the plaintiffs' arguments that they had been applied improperly. The governor referred to the decision as unequivocal and good news for road users in a press statement. The regulations make New York's drunk driving rules some of the toughest in the country for repeat offenders.

The regulations give the DMV the ability to review the lifetime driving records of individuals who apply to have their driving privileges reinstated after a revocation, and they allow the commissioner to permanently revoke the driver's licenses of motorists who have been convicted of at least five alcohol or drug-related driving offenses. Drivers with three alcohol or drug convictions along with one or more serious driving offenses also face a lifetime driving ban under the rules.

When their clients face possible lifetime driving bans or other severe penalties, experienced criminal defense attorneys may argue vigorously for drunk driving charges to be dropped or dismissed. Prosecutors must prove their cases beyond a reasonable doubt, and they may agree to reduce DWI charges in return for a guilty plea to avoid the risks of a criminal trial. Prosecutors may also be swayed by compelling mitigating factors such as genuine remorse and the culpability of others.

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