Whether you were recently arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving, or are simply curious about your rights, the following list of FAQs will help you better understand the DWI laws in the State of New York.

We encourage you to read the through the questions and answers below to familiarize yourself with NY DWI laws, then contact our DWI defense attorneys to discuss your case or any other questions that you may have.

You can click on any of the following links to go directly to the question:

  • What Is A DWI?
  • What Is The Difference Between A DWI, DUI and DWAI?
  • What Are The DWI Laws In New York?
  • Will I go to jail for my DWI?
  • I am an out-of-state driver. What is the difference?
  • Is is legal to refuse a breathalyzer or other type of chemical test?
  • Can I fight the charges?
  • Should I Hire A Lawyer?

Frequently Asked Questions About DWI / DUI In New York

What Is A DWI?

DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated and is the official term in the State of New York used to refer to a driving violation in which an individual is arrested for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or other substances such as drugs.

Altough “Driving While Intoxicated” is the official term in New York, DWI is also commonly referred to as:

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • Drunk Driving
  • Intoxicated Driving
  • Driving While Impaired

New York is unique when it comes to DWI laws because there are several different types of offenses and violations that one can be charged with, such as a standard DWI, aggravated DWI or DWAI.

What Is The Difference Between A DWI, DUI and DWAI?

In the State of New York, there are several types of intoxicated driving offense and violations which an individual can be charged with. Understanding the difference between these is important because the penalties associated with each charge can vary significantly.


DWI and DUI mean the same thing. While DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) is the official term used in New York to refer to an intoxicated driving violation, it has the same meaning as a DUI (Driving Under The Influence) and the acronyms are often used interchangeably.

A driver can be arrested on DUI / DWI charges in New York if he or she is found to be operating a motor vehicle after having consumed too much alcohol.

The legal limit of alcohol varies depending on the type of driver:

  • General Motorists  For general motorists (21 years and older), the legal limit is 0.08% BAC.
  • Underage Drivers – For underage drivers (Under 21 years old), the legal limit is 0.02% BAC.
  • Commercial Drivers – For drivers operating under a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), the legal limit is 0.02%.

DWAI / Alcohol

A DWAI / Alcohol (Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol) is a type of traffic violation that applies when a law enforcement officer arrests a driver with an alleged BAC of between .05 – .07%, or with some other evidence of impairment.

While a standard DWI is criminal offense in New York, a DWAI / Alcohol is just considered a traffic violation. However, the penalties and consequences for a DWAI can still be very serious.

In order to be convicted for a DWAI / Alcohol, the prosecution must prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that a driver was impaired. This is often difficult to do and there are many challenges that can be made to a DWAI arrest, so it is highly advisable to consult an attorney to discuss your legal options.

DWAI / Drugs

DWAI / Drugs (Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs) is a type of intoxicated driving charge in which a driver is charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of certain drugs.

A DWAI / Acohol is considered a traffic violation, but a DWAI / Drugs is a criminal offense which comes with much more serious penalties.

To learn more about this type of charge, visit our “DWI Drugs & Combined Influence” page here.

Am I Going To Lose My License?

It depends on the circumstances of your case and what you are being charged with. However, most intoxicated driving charges result in a mandatory license suspension which can range from 90 days to permanent suspension.

That said, it may be possible to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution in which your license suspension is shortened or eliminated all together.  To learn more about license suspensions and other potential penalties, contact our attorney for a free consultation.

Will I Go To Jail?

Again, this depends on many factors including the type of charge you are facing and any previous DWI convictions that you may have.

You could face jail time even if this is your first offense and you had a low alleged BAC. With the help of an experienced DWI attorney you can significantly reduce the risk of going to jail for your drunk driving or DWI arrest.

Is A DWI / DUI A Felony Crime?

Not every DWI is considered a felony, however there are certain circumstances in which a DWI is considered a felony.

This depends on several factors including the charge that you face and any previous DWI-related charges that you may have been charged with in the past.

If convicted of a felony DWI, you could face a lengthy prison sentence and many other negative consequences that can affect your future.

Can I Refuse A Breathalyzer / Chemical Test In NY?

The State of New York has an implied consent law which means that by driving in New York, an individual agrees to submit to a chemical test (breath, blood or urine) to determine blood alcohol content (BAC) if asked to do so by a law enforcement officer.

That being said, a law enforcement officer cannot use physical force to make you take a chemical test.

Penalties For Refusing a Chemical Test

By refusing to submit to a chemical test you will face certain penalties including a mandatory 1 year license suspension and $500+ fine. Commercial drivers who refuse to submit to a chemical test are subject harsher minimum penalties including a mandatory 18 month suspension and a $550 fine.

Additionally, if you’ve refused a chemical test or were charged with a DWI offense within the past five years you will face a minimum penalties that include a $750 fine and a mandataory 18 month license suspension. Commercial drivers who’ve refused a chemical test or were charged with a DWI offense within the past five years can have their CDL permanently revoked.

Can I Fight My DUI?


It is important to be aware of the fact that a DWI arrest can be challenged and it is possible to win. In fact, many drivers successfully challenge their DWI arrest based on a many different grounds.

However, it is only advisable to challenge an intoxicated driving charge with the help of a highly-qualified DWI defense attorney with experience and a successful track record.

Should I Hire A New York DWI Lawyer?

By simply pleading “guilty” to the charges, you are guaranteed to be convicted and will more than likely face the minimum penalties associated with the charges, if not worse.

On the other hand, an experienced DUI defense attorney can often help to mitigate the charges which can result in significantly reduced penalties and may even be able to get the charges completely dismissed.

At the very least you should contact our DWI defense attorneys for a free case evaluation. It will not cost you anything to talk with an experienced lawyer who can help you understand all of your legal options.

Visit our “New York DUI / DWI Attorneys” page to learn more about how our team of qualified lawyers can assist you with your DWI case.