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What's The Difference Between DWI And DWAI In New York?

You've probably heard drunk driving referred to in several different ways. You might have heard of the acronyms DUI, DWI, DWAI, OVI or even BUI. Depending on your state and the severity of your offense, these acronyms can mean very different things. In Texas, for example, if you are over 21, you will be charged with DWI. If you are under 21, however, you'll be charged with DUI.

In New York there is no such thing, legally speaking, as DUI. While DUI, DWI and drunk driving are typically used interchangeably, the actual charges are DWI and DWAI. DWI is "driving while intoxicated" and DWAI is "driving while ability impaired." These two charges cover the full range of drunk driving offenses throughout New York.

Many factors can influence the severity of penalties a drunk driver can face through the legal system. Based on the type of offense and the presence of a criminal record, a driver might face significant fines, jail time and a lengthy period of license suspension. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can carefully examine your situation and provide the legal guidance you need.

The main difference between DWI and DWAI centers on blood alcohol content (BAC).

  • DWI: A charge of driving while intoxicated means just that - the driver was legally intoxicated. The current BAC stands at the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
  • DWAI: A charge of driving while ability impaired means that the driver's BAC was between 0.05 and 0.07 percent.

While DWAI might usually entail a less severe penalty, both DWI and DWAI are criminal charges. Additionally, DWAI can be used to indicate the presence of substances other than alcohol in a driver's blood. The charge could be titled DWAI-Drugs or DWAI-Alcohol to account for the type of substance that was identified.

No matter your criminal record or history of traffic violations, these are very serious charges that must be handled by an experienced defense attorney.

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