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Pause, and put yourself into a scenario: You’ve just left a party in New York, at which alcohol was being served. You had a few drinks. You know that it’s not a good idea to drink and drive, but for some reason you get behind the wheel anyway. On the way home, you make one little mistake.

Maybe you forgot to signal when you made that left turn. Maybe you were in a hurry, and you were driving over the speed limit. But for some reason, you see the red and blue lights in your rear-view mirror, and the horror sinks in: you’re being pulled over for a traffic stop.

The police officer decides that you were drunk driving. And you think to yourself, "What are the consequences going to be?"

The bad news is, in New York at the very least you could be looking at having to pay a hefty fine. But there is also a good chance of receiving a license suspension, or having to enroll in the New York Drinking Driver Program or -- ultimately -- even a jail sentence. More bad news: the conviction rate for misdemeanor DWI can be more than 90 percent.

Now for the good news: If this is your first time in the New York legal system for drunk driving, your situation might not be as bad as you might imagine. The reason for this is because many judges are reluctant to throw the book at you for a first offense.

Remember that 90 percent conviction rate? Consider that for first-time offenders, there is a four-in-five chance that you can get that driving while “intoxicated” charge reduced to driving while “impaired.” And that can make the difference between the serious consequences described above, and a lesser punishment like a fine or a temporary suspension -- sanctions similar to an ordinary traffic ticket.

Protecting your future in a first-time brush with the law is something that a legal professional can help you with in ways that you may not know how to do on your own. If you have not been convicted of drunk driving before, you may maximize your chances of avoiding a harsh outcome if you have an attorney on your side.

Source: The Sun, "Drunk driving isn't worth the risk, regardless of age," Lizz Schumer, June 12, 2014

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