DWIs can have devastating long-range consequences

Most people are well aware a driving while intoxicated, or DWI, conviction will result in a very high fine and drivers license suspension. There are, however, even longer-range consequences that should make anyone think twice before consuming alcoholic beverages prior to driving a motor vehicle. DWI is an even more serious offense in Canada than in the United States. The U.S. Department of State advises American travelers, Driving with prior conviction no matter how long ago or how minor the infraction is grounds for exclusion from Canada. A person convicted in the U.S. of either DWI or DWAI, driving while ability impaired, will be inadmissible to Canada on grounds of criminality, unless rehabilitated. Americans with either a DWI or DWAI record must seek a waiver of exclusion. Waiver applications can be submitted to Canadian consulates, the nearest of which are in New York City and Buffalo. Normally, five years has to have elapsed from the last date of any imposed confinement before a waiver of exclusion will be granted. Many people may say, Ive crossed the border many times and Customs officers have never asked me about any prior arrest. That may be the case, but since Sept. 11, 2001, Canada and the U.S. have strengthened their information sharing agreements. It is far more likely any prior arrests will be discovered at the Canadian border. Exclusion from Canada because of a DWI or DWAI conviction can result in the loss of a job or a reduced chance of finding a job as many of local companies have office headquarters in Canada. Jon Votraw, a manager at the New York State Department of Labors One Work Source office in Plattsburgh, explained, People looking for work are sometimes ruled out from referral to companies with home offices in Canada because driving to Canada may be part of the job. They would probably be turned around at the border. Even though an employer still may consider hiring a person with a DWI conviction, the conviction could still adversely the persons chances of getting the job. Mr. Votraw explained the employer would probably include a DWI conviction as part of their overall evaluation of a job applicant. A second DWI is especially bad, he added. The New York State Legislature has toughened DWI laws by requiring a charge of aggravated DWI when the driver has a blood alcohol content of 0.18 percent or more. Contrasting aggravated DWI to DWI, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said, Its still a misdemeanor (as is a DWI) but the license suspension period and the fines that the court can impose can be more severe. Mr. Wylie explained an aggravated DWI charge is very serious from the point of view that it cannot be reduced to DWAI. DWAI is considered to be a violation rather than a misdemeanor. A person guilty of misdemeanor has a criminal record. Drivers who are required to possess a commercial drivers license, also known as a CDL, have even more reasons to maintain a clean driving record. As a result of the latest legislation a commercial drivers conviction for either DWI or DWAI even while driving his or her personal vehicle results in a minimum one-year CDL license suspension and a three-year suspension if the convicted person was hauling hazardous materials at the time of the arrest. A second conviction results in permanent license revocation. Prior to the latest legislation, a convicted CDL holder could apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for permission to drive for purposes of work. That privilege can no longer be granted. That has a huge impact on their livelihood and their family," said Mr. Wylie. "But theyre aware of that or they should be aware of that. When asked what a DWI conviction can do to a persons ability to purchase insurance, Clark Forster, president of CFA Insurance in Peru, said, Many companies will not quote you for five years. You will usually be excluded from preferred companies and if they do take you, you will not be in a preferred class. It will keep you from getting the best rating and the best company for one year and for as long as 10 years. Some people may believe insurance companies will overlook their driving record. That is not the case. Today, theres no hiding from it," Mr. Forster explained. "We must run a motor vehicle record check and an accident history report. At this time of year, many people will be attending holiday parties where they will consume alcoholic beverages. Hopefully, everyone will ask himself or herself: Am I fit to drive home? Todays strict DWI enforcement should make anyone seriously consider the long-range impact of his or her answer to that question. A wrong answer can have tragic consequences.

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