The Difference between DWI and DWAI in New York

DWI Defense Attorneys Prepared To Fight For You

Westchester DWI and DWAI Defense: Understanding the Difference between DWI and DWAI in New York

Knowing the Terms

Notice: If you are needing to sue for damages or a victim of a crime please reach out to a civil attorney or the police.

DUI & DWAI Meaning

DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated,” while DWAI stands for “Driving While Ability Impaired.” Both of these terms are used for the description of actions taken when a person drives under the influence of alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription painkillers.

New York State focuses on the driver’s level of impairment when judging the severity of the DWI.

For DWI, that level of impairment is determined by Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). The legal limits for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) are as follows:

  • 0.08% for drivers over the age of 21
  • 0.04% for drivers of commercial vehicles
  • 0.02% for drivers under 21


If a driver has a blood alcohol content between .04 and .07, or they show evidence that they have been mentally or physically impaired, they can be subject to a DWAI charge.

DWAI charges are considered a criminal law violation. If you’ve been charged with this offense, you need a New York DWI defense attorney who’s experienced in handling DWAI and DWI cases. Our NY lawyers at Riebling & Payton, PLLC are ready to help you navigate your DWAI charges. 

Penalties for DWAI Conviction in NY

First DWAI Offense in NY

For a first-time DWAI offense, a person with a DWI might face fines between $500 and $1,000. There’s also a potential for up to one year spent in jail, along with loss of driving privileges for a minimum of six months.

Second DWAI Offense in NY

If a second offense occurs within ten years, the mandatory fine will increase from $1,000 to $5,000. The potential prison term has a maximum of four years.

Third DWAI Offense in NY

For third offenses, a person might face fines of $10,000, prison sentences of up to seven years, and permanent revocation of their license.

If a person has been convicted of multiple DWIs within the last decade, they might be charged with a felony DWI rather than a misdemeanor. This results in additional fines and potential jail time.

Sobriety Tests

Three different types of sobriety tests might be performed by an arresting officer.

  1. Field sobriety test –  the officer might ask the person to walk a straight line or state the alphabet backward.
  2. A screening test is the second option. Screening tests are administered through the use of portable breath tests.
  3. Chemical tests are the third option. They are designed to detect the blood alcohol concentration of a person by using their blood. A chemical test must occur in the two hour period following the arrest.

It’s possible for false readings to occur with a breath test. Breath sprays, cough syrup, and mouth washes all have the potential to produce a false reading. It’s also possible for a person’s body temperature to affect the reading. Depending on the circumstances, a New York State court might throw out the results of a breath test because of the unreliability.

This is part of the reason that hiring a defense attorney is critical. Defense attorneys understand the way that DWI and DWAI cases are tried. They can ask the right questions, analyze the facts of your case, and make sure that all the rules were followed when your breath test was administered.

There are a number of options available for people who have been charged with DWI and DWAI. When you get in contact with an attorney, they can help you understand your options and make the best decision going forward.

Stephen J. Riebling, Jr. and Marcia Payton are criminal defense attorneys at Riebling & Payton, PLLC, located in Westchester County, NY. They have handled countless DWI and DWAI cases, resulting in dismissals and reductions throughout New York State. Visit our DUI lawyer reviews to see why clients come to us when they are looking for the best DWAI lawyer in NY.

To learn more about how our NY DWAI lawyers can help and their approach to defending DWI and DWAI cases please call at (914) 712-6878. Our team is ready to help you with DWAI in NY.