Some states in America differentiate between DWI (driving while intoxicated), DUI (driving under the influence), and DWAI (driving while ability impaired). In New York State, a DWI and DUI are the same, while a DWAI applies in cases where the offense is less severe.
Still, the minor differences in the wording don’t hide the fact that any DWI charge is a serious offense. If you’re found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it can have a profound effect on many areas of your life.
To help you understand DWI charges in New York State, we’ve put together this easy-to-read guide. We’ll define each of the different categories, outline the various penalties, examine how the legal system works, and explain how solid legal representation can help you throughout the process. It’s essential reading for anyone facing a DWI charge.
As you might expect, the various categories of DWI in New York State reflect both the seriousness of the offense and the cause of the intoxication. A first-time offender who’s barely over the limit and stopped for a faulty headlight will be treated differently than a third-time offender who’s way above the limit and causes an accident. The same is true for someone who’s unknowingly driving under the influence while on prescription drugs, compared to a driver who’s high on cocaine.
If you’re found guilty of subsequent offenses in every DWI category, you can expect a significant upgrade in your punishment. Your charge may also be upgraded to a misdemeanor or even a felony if it’s severe enough.
For a deeper examination of the main DWI categories, read on.
To be charged with a DWI offense in New York State, your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level must be a minimum of 0.08%. A breath, blood, saliva, or urine test may be used for your reading, but these chemical tests aren’t the only proof that’s acceptable in court. A police officer’s testimony regarding your driving, appearance, or behavior when arrested can also be used as evidence against you.
Potential penalties for a DWI include a mandatory fine of $500 to $1,000, a maximum jail term of up to a year, and your license revoked for at least six months.
As the name suggests, an aggravated DWI is a more serious version of a DWI. Here, a BAC level of more than 0.18% will result in an aggravated DWI charge. Remember, your BAC level depends on how much you drink, how long since you stopped drinking, and your weight, although other factors can also influence your levels.
Potential penalties for an aggravated DWI include a mandatory fine of $1,000 to $2,500, a maximum jail term of up to a year, and your license revoked for at least 12 months.
It doesn’t matter what form the drugs take - if they impair your ability to drive, you could face a DWAI/Drug charge. The list includes recreational drugs like marijuana and cocaine and covers prescription or over-the-counter medicines like tranquilizers and painkillers.
Potential penalties for a DWAI/Drug are the same as for a DWI, in other words, a mandatory fine of $500 to $1,000, a maximum jail term of up to a year, and losing your license for at least six months.
A blood alcohol content concentration of over 0.05% is sufficient to prosecute a DWAI/Alcohol. You may think that it’s ok to have a couple of drinks, like a small glass of wine or a couple of longnecks. Still, you should remember these two facts: even the tiniest amount of alcohol impairs your driving, and depending on your constitution, a small amount of alcohol could be enough to put you over the limit. The message is clear: drinking and driving don’t mix!
Potential penalties for a DWAI/Alcohol include a mandatory fine of $300 to $500, a maximum jail term of up to 15 days, and a suspended license for as long as six months.
There are other charges on the statute book related to a DWI. These include refusing a breathalyzer test (which will lead to a DMV hearing) and a DWAI/Combination (impairment through a mix of drugs and alcohol).
Young license holders under 21, and commercial drivers, should note that they’re subject to additional rules and regulations and may face harsher penalties if found guilty. Finally, people found guilty may have to pay an additional Vehicle & Traffic surcharge and install an ignition interlock device that won’t let you start your vehicle unless you’re sober.
If you’re arrested on suspicion of a DWI in New York, there’s a set procedure to follow. Once the police officer has completed the relevant paperwork, the date for an arraignment is set. An arraignment is a formal court procedure where the defendant is advised of the charges and asked to enter a plea. The judge will confiscate your license at this stage, and unless you plead guilty, will set a date for the next part of the process, which may well be your trial date.
Legislators, judges, and courts take all forms of DWI exceptionally seriously, so you may have limited room to maneuver when contesting your charge. That said, you’re entitled to due process and a fair trial.
An experienced DWI attorney will support you through every stage of the legal DWI process and may be able to suggest ways to secure a plea bargain on the lesser charges of reckless driving or a wet reckless.
If you’re ever pulled over for a DWI, there are various steps you should always follow, like securing top-notch legal representation. The experienced team at Marble can assist, so if you need our help with a DWI, call us now for a free evaluation of your case.