Charged with a DWI or DWAI in New York?

Published on
October 24, 2023
Nicholas Balboni
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New York State has undergone a massive overhaul in how the criminal justice system responds to accusations of Driving While Intoxicated – commonly known as “DWI” cases. Many of us have attended lectures or seen television announcements on the horror stories resulting from drinking and driving. Despite all this information, we are rarely provided an explanation on how our legal system defines “Driving While Intoxicated”. Even more troubling is how complicated and cumbersome the New York State laws are on drinking and driving. If you or a loved one is charged with a DWI, you may have many questions: will I be facing prison time? Will I be required to complete an alcohol education program? What are my options for fighting the case? If you are facing a DWI charge in New York, or simply are curious about New York laws on drinking and driving, read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

What is a DWI in New York?

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a criminal offense in New York. In other words, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. DWI laws are strictly enforced in New York, and penalties may include loss of driving privileges, fines, and even jail time. Consuming any amount of alcohol will affect your judgment and coordination, and will undermine your ability to safely operate a vehicle. The degree of impairment depends on several factors which

include (but are not limited to:
-Number of standard drinks consumed;
-Time period in which the drinks are consumed;
-Body weight;
-Certain medications an individual is taking; and
-The amount of food consumed that day.

Are there different types of DWI offenses in New York?

Yes. There are several different statutes (of different severities) which prohibit driving while intoxicated. You may be charged with one or multiple of these offenses. The most common DWI offenses in New York include:

  1. Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol: operating a motor with a blood alcohol
    content (“BAC”) of more than .05 but less than .07, or with other evidence of impairment.
  2. Driving While Intoxicated: operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher, or
    while exhibiting other signs of intoxication. Other signs of intoxication include (but are
    not limited to) bloodshot water eyes, slurred speech, an odor of alcohol, and an inability to
    perform basic cognitive functions. What this means is that if a police officer suspects you
    of driving under the influence, you may be pulled over and charged with a DWI, even if
    you do not submit to a breathalyzer test.
  3. Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated: operating a motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol
    Concentration of 0.18 or higher.

What can happen after you are convicted of a DWI?

  1. The Court may suspend or even permanently revoke your license.
  2. The Court may require a fine be paid; this fine can be up to $10,000.
  3. The Court may require that an ignition interlock device be installed on your vehicle.
  4. The Court may mandate that you complete a program intended to educate on the dangers of driving while intoxicated. 
  5. The Court may sentence you to a period of incarceration; this period may be up to 10 years.


Hopefully this article serves as a stepping stone to better understand why you may have been charged with a DWI and the potential consequences that could result. For a free consultation on your specific case, contact the Balboni Law Firm today.