New York DWI arrest statistics: big jump, then decline

New York police make tens of thousands of DWI arrests annually. However, arrests have gone down in recent years.

Fluctuations in the rate of drinking and driving arrests can mean a number of things. Your first instinct may be to assume that a change in DWI arrests means that more or fewer people are driving under the influence than in the past. It could mean that. However, the numbers could also reflect efforts by political leaders, police and prosecutors to increase the number of arrests. For example, some states allow police to set up road blocks to look for suspected drunk drivers.

New York State has some of the toughest anti-DWI laws in the country. Police arrest tens of thousands of drivers on suspicion of drinking and driving each year.

The numbers

According to statistics kept by the state, law enforcement made 51,255 arrests for DWI in 2012. While that number may seem high, it is actually part of a downward trend for New York State. There were 62,227 arrests in 2008. After that, the arrest statistics went down year by year:

  • 2009: 60,375 arrests
  • 2010: 57,247 arrests
  • 2011: 52,877 arrests

Before that, arrest jumped sharply for many years. In New York City, arrest rates went up 93.4 percent from 2001 to 2010.

The raw numbers differ, depending on which borough or even neighborhood you are talking about. In the first half of 2010, Corona, Queens, which is patrolled by the 115th Precinct, had the most DWI arrests in the city with 257. In the 110th Precinct next door, police made 167 DWI arrests over that time period. There, difficulty in finding cabs and mass transit may have contributed to the high arrest rate.

As noted above, the arrest rate went down statewide in 2010, but there were others outlier areas in New York City besides the parts of Queens mentioned above. In Manhattan, a precinct in the West Village made 149 arrests, the third-highest in the city for the first half of 2010. Other neighborhoods had relatively lower total numbers, but saw significant increases, such as parts of the Lower East Side and the East Village. Precincts in those neighborhoods had arrest rates in the mid-50s, up from 33 and 24, respectively.

Of course, an arrest is not a conviction. Nor does it mean that the court will automatically convict you at trial. In the government's intense campaign to make as many DWI arrests as possible, many drivers may find themselves wrongfully accused of driving under the influence. In other cases, police may have made errors outside of acceptable procedure.

No matter the evidence, anyone charged with DWI should consider getting the assistance of a criminal defense attorney. An attorney who understands the law can protect your civil rights, contest the prosecution's case and obtain a reduced sentence, if not a dismissal or not guilty verdict.

Keywords: DWI, arrested