DWI VS DUI In New York – What’s The Difference?
In an ideal world, DWIs and DUIs would never happen. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world, and it’s fairly easy for the average person to overdo it—even very slightly—and miscalculate how much they have had to drink or how much of a given substance they have ingested before getting behind the wheel of a car. As such, we have laws that mandate what happens when someone is caught driving while intoxicated.
Two of the most common terms used in reference to intoxicated driving are DUI and DWI. “DUI” stands for “driving under the influence”, while “DWI” stands for “driving while intoxicated.” Depending on the state, DUI and DWI have different usages. Sometimes they are used to refer to different violations, and sometimes they are used interchangeably. It is therefore understandable that some folks find it difficult to differentiate between the two.
In the State of New York, DUI and DWI have different usages colloquially and legally. Colloquially (that is, outside of courtrooms), DUI and DWI tend to be used interchangeably. However, DUI is actually not a legal term. There is no mention of the term “DUI” in New York State law. As such, most attorneys and judges will refer to what are commonly known as “DUI” charges as DWI charges.
There are a few other terms that are legally important to these matters in New York. These include:
- DWI: “Driving While Intoxicated.” Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher (the legal limit for driving in New York).
- AGG-DWI: “Aggravated DWI.” Driving with a BAC of .18 percent and higher. This charge carries higher potential penalties than standard DWIs.
- DWAI-ALCOHOL: “Driving While Ability Impaired- Alcohol.” Driving with a BAC of over .05 percent and up to .07 percent. These BAC numbers technically put the driver below the legal limit. However, if the driver is still considered impaired in any way, they can receive a DWAI.
- DWAI-DRUG: “Driving While Ability Impaired- Drugs.” Driving while your ability is impaired by drugs besides for alcohol.
- DWAI-COMBINATION: “Driving While Ability Impaired-Combination.” Driving while your ability is impaired by drugs and alcohol.
So, the real question New Yorkers should probably be asking is, what’s the difference between a DWI and a DWAI in New York?
In essence, “DWI” can be considered an umbrella term for any time a driver (or anyone who turns on the engine of a car while sitting in the driver’s seat) is impaired by any mind-altering substance. This includes alcohol, as well as all other drugs, regardless of current criminalization status in New York. It includes decriminalized drugs like marijuana, criminalized drugs like heroin, and prescription drugs like oxycodone, whether or not the driver has a prescription. DWAI-DRUGS and DWAI-COMBINATION charges are usually on-par with similar DWI charges in terms of sentencing.
DWAI-ALCOHOL charges can be considered a type of DWI with a lower BAC threshold. This sort of DWAI is usually less serious than an alcohol-only DWI. There are several exceptions to this rule. They include DWAIs that:
- involve a driver under the age of 21 with a BAC of .02 to .07 (as this is a violation of New York’s Zero Tolerance Law)
- cause severe property damage, or cause another party to be injured or killed.
In either of those cases, a DWAI-ALCOHOL can be more serious than a standard alcohol-only DWI.
Regardless, any DWI or DWAI charge is serious, and can result in steep fines, license suspension/revocation, and even jail time. If convicted of a DWI/DWAI, the severity of a person’s penalty depends on the crime itself and the damages caused, whether the person has a history of DWI/DWAI charges, and what sort of defense the person is able to mount for themselves (as well as the skill and experience of their legal counsel).
The appropriate sentencing for each offender in each individual scenario is decided on a case-by-case basis. There are, however, general sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums for both DWIs and DWAIs laid out by New York State Law.
Many of the potential penalties for standard DWIs and DWAI-DRUG/DWAI-COMBINATION offenses are the same. These include:
- First Offense: Mandatory fine of at least $500 up to $1,000 and license revocation for at least six months, as well as jail time for up to one year.
- Second Offense (in 10 years): Mandatory fine of at least $1,000 up to $5,000 and license revocation for at least one year, as well as jail time for at least five days (or 30 days of community service), up to four years. (Class E felony)
- Third Offense (in 10 years): Mandatory fine of at least $2,000 up to $10,000 and license revocation for at least 18 months, as well as jail time for at least 10 days (or 60 days community service), up to seven years. (Class D felony)
Some of the potential penalties for a DWAI-ALCOHOL are less severe. These include:
- First Offense: Mandatory fine of at least $300 up to $500 and license suspension for 90 days, as well as jail time for up to 15 days.
- Second Offense (in 5 years): Mandatory fine of at least $500 up to $750 and license revocation for at least six months, as well as jail time for up to 30 days.
- Third or Subsequent Offense (in 10 years): Mandatory fine of at least $750 up to $1,500 and license revocation for at least six months, as well as jail time for up to 180 days.
Whether you’re facing a DWI or a DWAI (or even if you decide to call it your charge a DUI), the potential penalties can be very severe. Even the more “lenient” sentences for these crimes have the power to change your life irrevocably. Don’t let your life be impacted forever by momentary mistakes. Instead, reach out to an experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled New York DWI/DWAI defense attorney. If you’re in Mt. Kisco, NY, the attorney to call is Rex Pietrobono. Attorney Pietrobono has what it takes to help you get the best possible outcome in your DWI/DWAI case. Call today for a free consultation at (914) 301-7500. The sooner you call, the sooner you can get your life back on track.