Is the New York Drinking Driver Program MANDATORY?
My clients ask me constantly: Do I HAVE to take the Drinking Driver Program?
My short answer is: Probably eventually--if you want to have a Conditional License during your suspension or revocation. Read entire page. (this only applies to DWI cases with alcohol...not drug cases). There is no clear answer due to practical realities in NY.
I'll break it down into two distinct phases of a DWI case...
PHASE ONE - BEFORE you are sentenced on a DWI
If you are charged with a DWI in New York, you will likely be eligible for a CONDITIONAL LICENSE 30 days following your first court appearance.
[Exception: if you had a Conditional License within 5 years of your new DWI charge - in that case, you get no driving privileges before or after sentencing]
So, 30 days after your arraignment (first court appearance), you can go to the local DMV, pay $75 and get your "Pre-Conviction Conditional License."
HERE IS INFO from the DMV website on the Conditional License:
Where and when you can drive
A conditional license/driving privilege is not valid to operate a taxicab or a vehicle for which a Commercial Driver License (CDL) is required.
If you receive a conditional license or conditional driving privilege, you may drive ONLY under the following circumstances
- to and from your place of employment
- during the hours of employment if your job requires you to drive a motor vehicle
- to and from a Motor Vehicle office to transact business regarding the conditional license or Drinking Driver Program (DDP)
- to and from a class or activity that is an authorized part of the DDP
- to and from a class or course at an accredited school, college or university, or at a state-approved institution of vocational or technical training in which you are enrolled - a conditional license/driving privilege CANNOT be used to drive to and from a high school
- to and from probation activities ordered by the court
- during an assigned period of three consecutive hours between 5 am and 9 pm once a week - the assigned period will not be changed unless this privilege is amended
- to and from a medical appointment that is part of necessary treatment for you or a member of your household - you must carry a written statement from your licensed medical practitioner as evidence, and show it to any police officer who asks to see it
- to and from a child’s school/day care if the child’s attendance at the school/day care is necessary for you to maintain employment or enrollment to an accredited school, college or university, or at a state-approved institution of vocational or technical training
This Pre-Conviction Conditional License (PCCL) is good until you are sentenced on the DWI charge. *You have not taken the DDP yet, but you are ELIGIBLE due to the charges against you.
PHASE TWO - AFTER you are sentenced on a DWI
After you get sentenced to ANY drunk driving-related charge in New York, you will have to change your "Pre-Conviction Conditional License" (PCCL) to a "Post-Revocation Conditional License" (PRCL) by actually going to the DMV in-person.
What's the difference between the PCCL and the PRCL in terms of your driving privileges?
Answer: NOTHING! They provide the same privileges-just have different names.
Your PRCL will give you driving privileges until the end of your revocation or suspension.
What does this have to do with the DDP?
When the DMV computer system gets updated with your DW conviction (typically takes 12-14 business days after sentencing in the court in our area of upstate NY), you will have to physically go to the DMV to change your PCCL to a PRCL.
At this interaction, the DMV will EXPECT you to sign up for the Drinking Driver Program. This is where they give you an ultimatum:
"If you want to continue to drive on a Conditional License --you will have to take the DDP."
But is it TRUE?
It's a complicated question because the information my clients receive from the actual DMV is DIFFERENT from the information on the DMV website. At the DMV, representatives tell my clients you MUST participate in the DDP if you want to continue driving on your PRCL.... but see this text below from the New York DMV website...
Participation in the Drinking Driver Program is available on a voluntary basis if you have been convicted of an alcohol or drug related driving violation, unless you have participated in the program within the last 5 years, or have been convicted of another alcohol or drug violation within 5 years of the current alcohol or drug violation.
HOW DO WE HANDLE THIS PARADOX?
*We encourage our clients to take the DDP. The benefits outweigh the costs in most situations.
We tell our clients to sign up for the DDP at the actual place where the class is given because sometimes the DMV representatives overcharge for the course. The costs varies in each county based on the DDP provider. Maximum cost is $225.
What happens if you decide NOT to participate in DDP?
Despite what I just posted above from the DMV website, the hard reality is that they could (potentially) take away your Conditional License. If you let this issue go and simply try to evade the DDP over the course of your revocation or suspension, it is possible that the DMV will catch it at the conclusion of your suspension and force you to take it BEFORE they give your full driving privileges back. Whether they are right or wrong...
This issue is complicated because this is the feeling of some DMVs around the state, but the DMV website claims that the program is VOLUNTARY. It's a difficult issue to navigate because sometimes when people are "supposed" to do something, they don't follow the rules.
Remember, the DMV is the Judge, Jury, and Executioner when it comes to your ability to drive in New York. They can do whatever they like.
What is the benefit of participating in DDP?
If you take the DDP, then you will maintain your conditional driving privileges. Also, and more importantly, you MAY have your full driving privileges restored EARLIER than you were sentenced. For many first time offenders, the DMV will give FULL PRIVILEGES BACK upon completion of the DDP. So, if you have a 6 month revocation and you complete the DDP at the 3 month mark, it is possible that the DMV could cut your revocation short by 3 months! That's a huge amount of time.
Ultimately, it is in the DMV's discretion is they choose to do this. It is handled on a case-by-case basis. If you have a clean history and are a first time offender, you have a good chance of having this happen. It's a good thing.
I hope this article was enlightening on a confusing topic. To take or not to take the DDP...