Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI)The State of New York is known for having some of the strictest and most confusing drunk driving laws in the US.

In some states there is only one type of DUI charge which applies to drivers who are over the legal limit of 0.08% BAC, but in New York there are many different types of alcohol-related driving violations that an individual can be charged with depending on the circumstances.  

Understanding the differences between New York’s intoxicated driving charges is important as each charge can carry significantly different consequences.

In this article, we cover the basics of DWAI charges in New York and the associate penalties.

Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) In New York

DWAI stands for Driving While Ability Impaired. 

An individual can be charged with a DWAI if that person is found to be operating a motor vehicle while his or her ability to drive is impaired to any extent due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs.

However, there are two different types of DWAI charges in New York:

  • DWAI / Alcohol,
  • and DWAI / Drugs.

The difference between these two charges is significant and understanding the difference can be very important.

What Is A DWAI / Alcohol Charge?

DWAI / Alcohol ChargeDriving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol is the least severe alcohol-related driving violation that an individual can be charged with in New York.

A driver can be charged with DWAI / Alcohol if found to be driving under the influence of alcohol with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of anywhere from 0.05% up to 0.0799%, or with any other evidence of alcohol-related impairment.

Note: At 0.08% BAC, the charge would increase to a standard DWI which comes with more severe penalties.

In other words, you could be charged with DWAI / Alcohol even if officers do not obtain an estimate of your BAC via a portable breath tester or other means. Slurred speech, an odor of alcohol and erratic driving could all potentially be used as “evidence” of impairment in which a law enforcement officer may charge a driver with DWAI / Alcohol.

That being said, a DWAI / Alcohol charge without a BAC reading is much more difficult for prosecutors to uphold in court.

Penalties For DWAI / Alcohol

While a DWAI / Alcohol charge is considered to be the least severe of New York’s alcohol-related driving charges, the penalties and consequences are still quite serious.

The penalties for a DWAI / Alcohol charge can vary depending on several factors, including any previous DWI-related charges that a driver may have.

The standard penalties for a first offense DWAI / Alcohol include:

  • $300 – $500 in mandatory fines
  • Maximum of 15 days in jail time
  • 90 day mandatory license suspension

If this is your second DWI-related charge (DWAI, DWI, Aggravated DWI, etc.) within the past five years, then you will face a higher tier of penalties, including:

  • $500 – $750 in mandatory fines
  • Maximum of 30 days in jail
  • 6 month mandatory license revocation

Drivers who are convicted of a third or subsequent DWI-related charge within a span of 10 years will be charged with a misdemeanor DWAI and face even stricter penalties, including:

  • $750 – $1,500 in mandatory fines
  • Maximum of 180 days in jail
  • 18 month mandatory license revocation

What Is A DWAI / Drugs Charge?

Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs (or DWAI / Drugs) applies to individuals who are found to be driving a motor vehicle while impaired by one or more drugs other than alcohol. A DWAI / Drugs is an entirely different charge compared to a DWAI / Alcohol charge.

While a DWAI / Alcohol charge is only a driving violation and is considered to be a relatively minor charge compared to other alcohol-related driving charges in New York, a DWAI / Drugs charge is a crime and is much more serious.

Penalties For DWAI / Drugs Charge

The penalties for a first offense Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs conviction are essentially the same as for a standard DWI conviction and include:

  • $500 – $1,000 in mandatory fines
  • 3 years of probation
  • Minimum of 6 month license revocation
  • A lifetime criminal record

The penalties for a second or third DWAI / Drugs charge are essentially the same as the penalties associated with a second or third offense DWI charge. Visit our DWI / DUI Defense page to learn more about multiple offense DWI charges and the associated penalties.

If you have any other DWI-related questions, you can call our experienced New York DWI attorneys for a free consultation.