DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), the name for drunk driving in New York, is referred to as DUI (Driving Under the Influence) in many other states. DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired), like the name implies, is driving with some degree of ability impairment, but of a lesser degree than a full DWI. When pulling over a driver for drinking and driving, law enforcement will typically administer a breath or urine test to determine the driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level, and depending on what it shows, as well as other factors, they may elect to charge the driver with DWI or DWAI.
BAC level: If a driver shows a BAC of 0.08% and above, he/she will be charged with DWI, a misdemeanor, while a BAC of 0.05% and above results in a charge of DWAI, which while only a violation in New York, still has very serious consequences. In some cases, even a BAC of 0.02% is grounds for a DWI charge, such as for drivers under the age of 21. This is called the “zero-tolerance” law.
DWI alcohol and drugs: The BAC test is used for those driving after allegedly consuming alcohol. If one is suspected of driving after taking drugs, any amount is grounds for an arrest in New York, and being charged with DWI/drugs. Other states have different regulations when it comes to DWI/Drugs
PENALTIES FOR DRINKING AND DRIVING. There are many difference between the severity of DWI and DWAI:
As one can see on the, there is a minimum of 1 year of jail time up to a maximum of 7 years, $500-$10,000 in fines and license revocation in all instances between 6 months and 1 year. There is also a state surcharge, which is generally $400.
As one can see from the chart, the differences are stark;
It should be noted that even in DWAI convictions, one’s record still shows an alcohol violation, which carries many legal and financial consequences. It is not a light charge by any means.
When it comes to drugs and driving, in the language of the statute the charge is DWAI for drugs, however the fines, jail time and license status is the same as a DWI offense, as we can see on the chart above.
If we analyze the information on this cart, we see that all penalties for driving while impaired by drugs, regardless of the level of impairment, are identical to the penalties for DWI/Alcohol. In effect, while it is called DWAI/drugs, it is a misdemeanor, and should be treated as a full DWI.
Conclusion: Drinking and driving is dangerous to yourself and to others. If you have been drinking, assign a sober friend to do the driving. Or call a taxi. If you have been caught drinking and driving or driving while impaired by drugs, the help of a competent New York attorney is advisable to help you fight the charges, shorten or avoid jail time and in preserving your driving privileges. Your attorney will also guide you through the difficult and lengthy judicial process.