Home > Case Studies > DWI > What’s the Difference Between a DWI and a DWAI?

What’s the Difference Between a DWI and a DWAI?

by | Sep 2, 2022

Drinking and driving is a serious matter that can result in severe consequences. However, not every alcohol-related driving offense is charged as a DWI. Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) is a lesser charge that can be brought by prosecutors in some cases. Although a DWAI is considered a violation — and is not classified as a crime in New York — a conviction can still carry a jail sentence, cause a defendant to lose their driver’s license, and come with other personal and professional ramifications.

What is a DWAI?

While a defendant must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher to be charged with a DWI offense, the standard is much lower for a DWAI. Specifically, there only needs to be evidence of some impairment of the defendant’s mental faculties or motor skills in connection with alcohol consumption. Charges for a DWAI can also be brought if the results of a chemical test show a BAC higher than .05% but less than .08%.

There are three types of DWAI charges in New York — Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol, Driving While Ability Impaired by a Single Drug Other Than Alcohol, and Driving While Ability Impaired by a Combined Influence of Drugs or Alcohol. The penalties for a DWAI involving alcohol can include a:

  • Mandatory $300 to $500 fine
  • Maximum jail sentence of 15 days
  • 90-day driver’s license suspension

For a DWAI involving illegal or prescription drugs, the fine may be up to $1,000. In addition, a defendant can face a maximum jail term of one year, as well as a six-month license suspension. Installation of an ignition interlock device may also be required for a period of at least six months. An enhanced sentence can be imposed for those who have had prior alcohol-related convictions.

Critically, a DWAI can remain on your DMV record for as long as ten years. A conviction can also result in a criminal record that can affect future employment opportunities and many other aspects of a person’s life and livelihood. It’s vital to have a skilled DWI attorney by your side who can fight to protect your rights and your future.  

Defenses to DWI and DWAI Charges

Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, there are a number of defenses an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to raise on your behalf in a DWI or DWAI case. For instance, they may be able to argue that the police officer’s stop was illegal. If this can be established, any evidence obtained during the stop would be inadmissible in the courtroom. A defendant may also be able to show that the results of the chemical test were flawed, or they might be able to challenge the observations the police officer made at the time of the arrest.  

A DWI can be reduced to a DWAI with a plea bargain under certain circumstances. This is more likely for first-time offenders with a lower BAC level when no aggravating factors exist. But while a DWAI is a low-level charge, there is typically nothing to plead down to — this is why it’s essential to have the representation of an adept DWI attorney who will work diligently to get the DWAI charges brought against you dismissed.   

Contact an Experienced New York Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been charged with a DWI, a DWAI, or another alcohol-related offense, it’s vital to have a DWI defense attorney on your side to safeguard your rights. The criminal defense attorneys at D’Emilia Law provide high-quality representation and aggressive advocacy to those who have been arrested for DWI offenses and strive to obtain the best possible outcomes in their cases. To schedule a consultation, contact us at 1-888-DEMILIA.  

Field Sobriety Test

Can a Driver Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in New York?

In a case where a driver is suspected of operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol, a preliminary breath test isn’t the only test a police officer might ask to administer. Part of the arrest process may include conducting field sobriety tests. These types...

New York Launches “STOP-DWI Month” and “Don’t Drive High” Campaigns

New York State is notoriously tough on impaired drivers, and driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana can result in serious legal consequences. Significantly, New York is cracking down on impaired driving with two new public awareness campaigns that were...

New York State Seeks to Implement Cannabis DWI Test

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in New York State, the New York State Department of Health is examining methodologies that can be used to detect cannabis-impaired driving. Unlike the technologies that can determine a person’s blood alcohol content in...

5 Common Myths and Misconceptions About New York DWIs

Being arrested for a DWI can be a stressful, scary, and overwhelming experience. Your liberty, reputation in the community, and professional standing are all on the line when you are facing drinking and driving charges. However, many people have various misconceptions...
DWI Cases

Use of Chemical Tests in New York DWI Cases

Chemical tests play a major role in DWI cases. Critically, there are typically three tests used in New York DWI cases to determine an individual’s blood alcohol content: blood tests, breath tests, and urine tests. While portable breath tests are commonly administered...
Penalties for a DWI in New York

What Are the Penalties for a DWI in New York?

Getting behind the wheel if you’ve had too much to drink can have devastating consequences on your life and livelihood. Not only can a DWI conviction have an impact on your reputation in the community, but the long-term effects and legal ramifications can be severe....
DWI Defense Attorney

5 Reasons You Need a DWI Defense Attorney

Being arrested for a DWI can be life-changing. Not only can you lose your license, but a conviction can come with jail time, significant fines, and damage to your reputation. Regardless of whether it’s your first DWI — or your third — it’s critical to have a DWI...
man caught drunk driving

Avoid Common DWI Mistakes

Summer 2020 will undoubtedly be a historic one in New York…The limits of social distancing will be tested as gatherings resume. When there are parties, there may be alcohol. That can lead to driving while intoxicated (DWI). D’Emilia Law has defended against countless DWI charges and secured favorable results.