If you drive in the state of New York you may already know that there exists two tiers of alcohol related or drunk driving offenses: Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). Both offenses can carry steep fines and a suspended driver’s license. Both offenses can also carry jail time. The most important thing to remember, however, is that these can be fought in court with the help of a licensed attorney. First, let’s garner an understanding of what DWAI in New York state means.
Understanding a DWAI Charge
In the state of New York, a DWAI is considered a traffic violation, not a crime per se. Other such violations are infractions like speeding, running a stop sign, or failing to yield. An officer may consider a DWAI if he suspects that your ability to operate a vehicle has been hindered by drugs, alcohol, or another factor. Compared to other infractions, however, a DWAI in New York carries severe penalties up to and including jail time. Unlike a simple traffic ticket, a DWAI can lead to a suspended license for up to 90 days for a first offense. This can have consequences beyond the state of New York, and travelers from other states have seen their licenses suspended in their own state for a DWAI in New York. A DWAI conviction can lead to an increase in insurance premiums and fines can easily approach $1000…two incredibly expensive consequences! Additionally, a DWAI can stay on your driving record for up to ten years and may appear on criminal background checks. DWAI’s are not laughing matters and should be taken very seriously.
A conviction for DWAI requires proof that the defendant was impaired and that this temperament impeded your ability (beyond a reasonable doubt) to operate your vehicle. If your blood alcohol is over the legal limit, 0.08, and you fail field sobriety tests you may be charged with a DWI. However, if you appear impaired and your blood alcohol is above 0.05 and under 0.08 you may be subject to a DWAI charge.
Take a look at the following chart:
Because a DWAI is not a criminal offense it cannot be reduced down to a lesser charge. That does not mean you should just accept your ticket without contesting it. As previously stated, a DWAI in New York can have serious and far reaching consequences, however there is little to no risk if contested. The worst case scenario, the ruling stands and the ticket is issued as initially intended by the officer. With the help of an attorney, defendants may be able to get the DWAI thrown out entirely. After all, driving with a blood alcohol limited under 0.08 is not illegal in and of itself. The authorities must prove that in addition to the presence of alcohol the driver was unable to effectively drive and was therefore impaired. The police must rely on field sobriety tests to make these determinations, and they are not an exact science often times creating problems for the prosecution. Compare this with the consequences for a DWAI, it often makes more sense to contest the charge than to blindly accept it. If you have questions about DWAI or would like to speak to an attorney about your options, call us today.