Understanding Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) by Drugs Charges

In New York, people can face two different charges related to driving while ability impaired (DWAI) by drugs (NY Vehicle and Traffic Laws § 1192):

  • DWAI/Drug, driving a vehicle while a person’s ability to operate the vehicle is impaired by drug usage
  • DWAI/Combination, driving a vehicle while a person’s ability to operate the vehicle is impaired by the influence of drugs and alcohol

In DWAI by drug cases, drugs include anything legally defined as a controlled substance. Per NY Public Health Laws § 3306, controlled substances include:

  • Opiates
  • Narcotics
  • Depressants
  • Stimulants
  • Hallucinogens
  • And more

Penalties for DWAI by Drug Convictions

If convicted of a drug-related driving offense, the offender faces serious fines and jail time. They can also lose their state driver’s license. Specific consequences are as follows:

  • First-time DWAI-Drug and DWAI-Combination convictions are punishable by fines of $500-$1,000, imprisonment for up to a year, and driver’s license revocation for at least 6 months.
  • Second-time DWAI-Drug and DWAI-Combination convictions (within 10 years of the first) are punishable by fines of $1,000-$5,000, imprisonment for up to 4 years, and driver’s license revocation for at least 1 year.
  • Third-time DWAI-Drug and DWAI-Combination convictions (within 10 years) are punishable by fines of $2,000-$10,000, imprisonment for up to 7 years, and driver’s license revocation for at least 1 year.

Per NY Vehicle and Traffic Laws § 1199, those convicted must also complete a driver responsibility assessment, which costs $250 each year, for 3 years. Additionally, offenders may be required to submit to a mandatory alcohol and drug screening and/or assessment (see NY Vehicle and Traffic Laws § 1198-A). Offenders with multiple convictions within 25 years also face more severe penalties.

It is important to note that the penalties can also vary for those who refuse a chemical test. Per NY Vehicle and Traffic Laws § 1194, drivers give implied consent to a chemical test (typically of blood, urine, saliva, or breath) by or under the direction of a police officer. Typically, chemical tests are administered at a police station following an arrest.

While the lack of a chemical test can hinder the prosecution’s ability to prove DWAI-related charges, the courts can still penalize you for your refusal. If someone refuses a chemical test, they face charges punishable by fines, imprisonment, and driver’s license revocation.

  • For a first-time refusal, an offender faces $500 (or $550 for commercial drivers) of civil fines and driver’s license revocation for 1 year (or 18 months if they have a CDL).
  • For subsequent refusals (within 5 years of a previous chemical test refusal or other DWAI-related charge), an offender faces $750 of civil fines and driver’s license revocation for at least 18 months (or permanently for commercial drivers with a CDL).

Contact Our DWAI Drug Attorneys

DWAI by drug charges should be taken seriously. If convicted, an offender’s life can change forever. A criminal record appears on background checks, which can affect job prospects, rental opportunities, and more. A conviction can also affect certain privileges such as firearm rights.

At Letterio & Haug, LLP, we are equipped to help you protect your rights and freedoms. If you or a loved one has been charged with DWAI by drugs, you should immediately contact our legal team so we can help you:

  • Prepare a legal defense strategy (such as involuntary consumption of drugs or accidentally taking more medicine than prescribed)
  • Answer any questions you may have about what to expect during the process ahead
  • Understand your legal options and the different possible outcomes of your case
  • And more

We defend clients accused of driving while ability impaired by drugs in cases involving the following illegal substances:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • LSD
  • Opioids
  • Methamphetamines
  • Unauthorized prescription drugs

To schedule your case consultation, contact us online or via phone at (845) 203-0997. Our team has nearly two decades of combined experience to put on your side.

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