What is a DWAI?

Last updated on November 24, 2023

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. The Law Offices of Jason Bassett can provide you with legal representation and guidance to help you navigate the complexities of your case and secure the best possible outcome for your situation. Understanding the difference between DWAI, DWI, and DUI is crucial in these situations. Contact us today at (631) 259-6060 to schedule a confidential consultation and take the first step in safeguarding your future.

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.

Is DWAI A Misdemeanor In NY?

If a driver registers a blood alcohol content between 0.04 and 0.07 or displays signs of mental or physical impairment, they could potentially face a DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) charge. The specific DWAI offense depends on the type of intoxication during the arrest. For instance, operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs may lead to a DWAI-drugs charge, while driving under the influence of alcohol could result in a DWAI-alcohol charge.

In New York, DWAI charges are generally less severe than DWI charges. This is primarily because DWAI charges require a lower blood alcohol content threshold. Convictions for DWAI charges typically come with penalties that can include fines of up to $1,000, imprisonment for a maximum of one year, probation lasting three years, and an automatic minimum six-month suspension of your driver’s license.

Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs (DWAI-Drugs) is a significant misdemeanor offense in the state of New York. The consequences for this violation can encompass the loss of your driver’s license, vehicle impoundment, hefty fines, and even imprisonment. This offense is defined under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192(4) and applies to anyone found operating a motor vehicle in New York while influenced by a controlled substance as listed in section 3306 of the New York Public Health Law.

Moreover, under New York law, DWAI penalties can intensify with each successive charge. If you accumulate a sufficient number of DWAI charges, it can lead to a felony charge instead of a misdemeanor.

When it comes to navigating the complex legal landscape of DWAI cases in New York, Long Island DWI attorney Jason Bassett from the Law Offices of Jason Bassett can be your invaluable guide. With an in-depth knowledge of New York’s DWAI laws, Jason Bassett can offer you the guidance and representation you need. Contact us today to schedule a consultation, and let us help you navigate the legal process while striving for the best possible results in your DWAI case.

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.

DWAI Offense Type Fine Range License Suspension Period Jail Term
First Offense DWAI $300 – $500 90 days Up to 15 days
First Offense DWAI – Drugs $500 – $1000 6 months Up to 1 year
First Offense DWAI – Alcohol & Drugs $500 – $1000 6 months Up to 1 year

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 criminal defense 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. Contact us to speak with top Long Island DWI Attorney Jason Bassett today.

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