Do I need a lawyer for a first DWI offense?

If you have been charged with a DWI offense for the first time, the experience may be stressful and uncertain. You may be concerned about the penalties you are facing and wondering if you should get a lawyer involved. In this article, we’ll explore why you should consider a lawyer if you get charged with a DWI/DWAI/DUI for the first time and how this can impact your case. 

What is the difference between a DWI and a DUI in New York?

DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated”, while DWAI is short for “Driving While Ability Impaired” (which can refer to either a blood alcohol level above the legal limit but below that required for a DWI or driving under the influence of drugs).  DUI or “Driving Under the Influence” is not a term used for any drunk driving charge under New York Law and is really just a slang term for drunk driving sometimes used by members of the public.  Judge and attorneys use the term DWI to refer to drunk driving charges. 

Why you should consider a lawyer for a first DWI offense on Long Island

Drunk driving is a serious crime that carries serious consequences. In New York, a DWI is a misdemeanor, and if you are convicted results in a criminal record.  Even a first offense for Driving While Intoxicated in New York can carry the following penalties: 

  • Fines ranging from $500-$1000
  • Revocation of driver’s license up to 6 months
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (a device that prevents the vehicle from being started until the driver provides an acceptable breath sample) for at least 6 months
  • Mandatory substance abuse programs
  • Community service
  • Probation of up to 3 years
  • Jail time of up to 1 year

Prosecutors will typically offer a standard plea deal for first-time offenders, however, it may not be in your interest to accept this “one size fits all” deal.  All too often, people are told that DUI cases are too hard to fight and that they have no choice but to accept any offer made.  You need an experienced DWI attorney who prosecutors know can take the case to trial and win.  Only an attorney known for successfully fighting drunk driving charges can get you the best possible outcome.     

The right attorney can argue your defense and help you obtain the best possible result. For a free consultation with experienced Long Island DWI lawyer Jason Bassett, call (631) 259-6060.

How a DWI lawyer can help with your first DWI/DUI arrest in New York State

Assess your case

Every DWI case – even a first-time offense – is unique and can differ in a number of ways, including the circumstances of the vehicle stop, whether or not there was an accident, the presence of any children in the car, the performance of field sobriety tests, and whether or not the driver consents to a blood alcohol test. These factors contribute the overall complexity of the case and no 2 two drunk driving cases are exactly alike.  It takes an experienced DWI lawyer to properly assess your case and devise a plan to successfully defend against the charges against you. 

The initial meeting with a lawyer will serve as a consultation where you can learn more about the charges against you, review the initial court paperwork, and start discussing your options.  Jason Bassett is a Suffolk County DWI lawyer who gets the best possible outcome for his clients and offers a FREE consultation. 

Gathering evidence

If you are charged with a DWI in New York, you are entitled to discovery of certain evidence from the prosecutor, including police paperwork, photographs, video, and audio recordings, and the results of any blood alcohol testing.  It takes an experienced drunk driving attorney to go thru these materials and use them to your best advantage.  

Sometimes, just settling for the discovery provided by the prosecutor is not enough.  A top DWI defense lawyer will often conduct their own investigation which includes going to the scene, interviewing witnesses, and subpoenaing materials from several different sources

Negotiating a plea deal

It sometimes may not be in the client’s best interests to fight the case and risk the stiff penalties that can come with a conviction. A plea deal may be your best option.  

You need a DWI attorney who knows how to present your case in such a way as to get the best possible plea bargain.  It takes a top DWI lawyer that the prosecutors know isn’t afraid to take a case all the way and can beat them in order to be able to negotiate the best outcome for you.

Representing you at trial

If prosecutors and a defendant cannot come to an agreement regarding a plea on a DWI charge, then like any criminal matter the case then goes to trial.  While it is possible to represent yourself, it is never recommended. A lawyer will have the legal knowledge and valuable trial experience. Representing yourself puts you at a huge disadvantage and people who opt for this route almost always end up regretting it.

Public vs Private Defender for your first DWI offense charge

All criminal defendants are entitled to representation by a lawyer. You have the option to hire one (a “private attorney”) or have one appointed (a “public defender” or “Legal Aid lawyer”) if you cannot afford one. 

Public Defender for a DWI Offense


These lawyers are appointed by the Court and are free if you qualify financially.  They may be familiar with DUI laws and have a good amount of trial experience. 


You do not get to pick your Legal Aid attorney so you might be getting their best attorney or you might be getting their worst – you just don’t know and have no control over who you get. Public Defenders work on a huge of cases at once and so the amount of time and attention they will be able to put into your case may not be sufficient to get you the best possible outcome.

Private Lawyer for a First DWI Offense


You select your private defense counsel, so you can make sure you hire a top DWI attorney to represent you on your drunk driving charge.  The right private criminal defense lawyer has the time and experience necessary to provide you the best possible defense.  Your private attorney will be readily available to answer questions, field any concerns you might have, and thoroughly explain all the different nuances of your case.

A top DWI will also be able to represent you in court as well as at any DMV proceedings or vehicle forfeiture hearings. Having a defense lawyer present at all proceedings related to your DWI arrest increases your chances of obtaining a positive outcome. 


As mentioned earlier, you have to pay a private attorney.  However, the value of having an experienced DWI attorney by your side far outweighs the cost associated with their services.  

Hiring Experienced DWI Lawyer on Long Island 

When it comes to hiring an attorney, you have many options available if you are charged with a DWI or DUI first offense. The penalties you face will be dependent on the circumstances of your case, but hiring a talented criminal defense lawyer can help you avoid or at least minimize those penalties. If you’ve been arrested and charged with a DWI in Suffolk County, Nassau County, or anywhere on Long Island, experienced criminal defense attorney Jason Bassett is here to help. Local to Long Island, Mr. Bassett has been successfully representing clients charged with drunk driving for over 20 years. To schedule a free consultation, call today (631) 259-6060.

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