What is a DWAI?

In response to the dangers posed by people driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both, police in New York are constantly on the lookout for drivers whose ability to operate their vehicles seems impaired. Prosecutors, spurred on by constant new reports involving people hurt or even killed by someone driving under the influence, aggressively pursue charges under the Vehicle & Traffic Law (“VTL”) against anyone accused of driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two. If you’ve been arrested and charged with DWI, DWAI, DWAI – Drugs, or any form of impaired driving in Suffolk County or Nassau County, protect your rights and contact Long Island DWI Attorney Jason Bassett.

Impaired Driving in New York

In New York (unlike many other states), there is no actual crime entitled “DUI” or “Driving Under the Influence.” DUI is an umbrella term that is used to mean operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating substance. New York uses the terms “DWI” (or “Driving While Intoxicated”) and “DWAI” (“Driving While Ability Impaired”).

DWI vs. DWAI: How Are They Different?

A DWI charge in New York is specifically related to impaired driving as it relates to alcohol. If you drive in New York, you can be charged with DWI if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is at or above .08%

A DWAI charge, on the other hand, can be levied against a driver who has not reached the .08% BAC threshold but who is still considered impaired. DWAI in New York is separated into three categories:

  • DWAI (which refers to impairment by Alcohol)
  • DWAI – Drugs
  • DWAI – Combination of Alcohol & Drugs

You can be charged with DWAI pursuant to VTL 1192.1, an infraction if you are found to be driving with a BAC between .05% and .07%.

A driver is charged with DWAI – Drugs under VTL 1192.4, a misdemeanor, if they are alleged to have been operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of recreational and/or prescription drugs that can cause impairment (these substances are listed in the Public Health Law).

If you are alleged to have been driving under the influence of a combination of alcohol and drugs, you will be charged under VTL 1192.4-a, a misdemeanor.
Defining Legal Impairment

For both DWI and DWAI, for a driver to be proven impaired, the government must prove that the alcohol made the driver substantially incapable of operating their vehicle safely.

For DWAI – Drugs and DWAI – Combination of Alcohol & Drugs, the prosecution only needs to prove that the person’s ability to drive was impaired to any degree.

Penalties for DWAI in New York

For a first offense DWAI, the penalties can be:

  • A fine between $300 and $500
  • Driver’s License suspension of 90 days
  • Jail term up to 15 days

For a first offense DWAI -Drugs, the possible penalties include:

  • A fine between $500 and $1000
  • Driver’s License suspension of 6 months
  • 3 years of Probation
  • Jail term up to 1 year

For a first offense DWAI – Combination of Alcohol & Drugs, the potential penalties are:

  • A fine between $500 and $1000
  • Driver’s License renovation of 6 months
  • 3 years of Probation
  • Jail term up to 1 year

Subsequent convictions, particularly within five years of a previous conviction, may bring on more severe legal penalties, including longer jail sentences, higher fines, and longer periods of license suspension or revocation.

Aggravating circumstances can also add to the penalties for a DWAI conviction. If personal or property damage takes place while driving ability-impaired, you may also face additional penalties in association with your DWAI charge.

Contact a Long Island DWI Lawyer

Because driving while impaired is such a serious legal matter that can have severe consequences, you need an experienced Long Island DWI attorney if you’ve been charged with DWI or DWAI in Suffolk County or Nassau County, New York. Your attorney can review your case, discuss your defense strategy, and provide options to ensure that you are treated fairly by the justice system. Call to speak with top Long Island DWI Attorney Jason Bassett today.

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