DWI Versus DUI in New York – What’s the Difference?

DWI Versus DUI in New York – What’s the Difference?

On Behalf of vitalianolaw | Mar 03, 2022 |

Driving while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol is very dangerous for the impaired driver, their passengers, and the occupants of other nearby vehicles, but doing so is also illegal. Driving under the influence (DUI) is a severe criminal offense throughout most of the US, and every state has unique laws pertaining to this type of behavior. In New York, the state does not recognize the term “DUI” and instead uses the term “DWI,” which means “driving while intoxicated.”

DWI charges can have a dramatic impact on a driver’s life, potentially leading to criminal prosecution and civil liability for any damages caused to other motorists from this behavior. Therefore, if you or a loved one is charged with DWI in New York, it’s essential to understand the components of this charge, the likely penalties you face, and your available options for defending yourself against conviction.

What Determines DWI in New York?

It’s possible to face a DWI charge related to the use of drugs or alcohol in New York. When it comes to alcohol consumption, the state of New York recognizes the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) system to determine whether a driver is too drunk to drive. The legal limit for BAC is .08% for most drivers and .04% for commercial drivers. If a driver has a BAC over the applicable limit, they will likely face a DWI charge and the associated penalties. It’s also possible for DWAI (driving while ability impaired) to come into play when a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs but has a BAC under the legal limit. For example, if a driver is arrested for intoxicated driving and has a BAC of .06% but tests positive for cocaine, this would qualify as DWAI. They may not have met the legal criteria for a DWI conviction, but the presence of drugs and alcohol together qualify for a DWAI charge, and the driver is likely to face harsher penalties than what they would face for a standard DWI.

What to Do After a DWI Arrest in New York

When someone is arrested for DWI or DWAI in New York, it’s vital that they understand and take advantage of their rights. First, they have the right to remain silent. This can prevent self-incrimination and preserve their ability to fight the charges. When the police arrest someone, they are under no legal obligation to answer questions or sign any statements until they secure legal representation. The police must read a suspect their Miranda rights during arrest, which informs them of their right to remain silent and their right to legal counsel.

If you are arrested, the police may make your situation seem hopeless and encourage you to sign a statement acknowledging your responsibility for the charges in question. If you sign this statement, there will be very little any defense attorney can do to defend you. If you answer questions, the police will likely interpret your responses in the worst ways possible and add their interpretations to their police report. This is another example of how failure to exercise your right to remain silent works against you.

You have the right to legal counsel after an arrest, even if you cannot afford to hire a private defense attorney. The court can appoint a public defender to represent you free of charge if necessary. The majority of public defenders are hardworking attorneys who do their best for their clients. However, they need to manage multiple cases simultaneously and generally cannot offer much personal attention to any given case. If you have the means to do so, hiring an experienced DWI defense attorney offers a more robust level of legal counsel. If you are arrested for DWI in New York, contact an experienced defense lawyer as soon as possible and continue exercising your right to remain silent until your attorney arrives.


Q: Which Is Worse: DUI, DWI, or DWAI in New York?

A: The terms “DUI” and “DWI” are interchangeable in New York, and DWI penalties are typically more severe than DWAI penalties. However, it is crucial to understand that DWAI can carry severe penalties depending on the unique details of the case. It’s possible to face a DWAI charge that’s less severe than a DWI, but the potential penalties can escalate significantly if a DWAI involves a combination of drugs and alcohol.

Q: What Happens If You Get a DWI in NY?

A: DWI penalties increase with subsequent offenses. If a suspect is charged with a second DWI after a first DWI conviction within the past few years, their penalties escalate significantly. The standard penalties for a DWI conviction in New York include fines, jail time, and a driver’s license suspension. In addition, a judge may order additional penalties, including restitution to any victims harmed by the impaired driver’s actions, mandatory substance abuse treatment, and driver safety school at the defendant’s own expense.

Q: Is a DWI a Felony in NY?

A: DWI can qualify as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the unique details of the case. A second conviction for DWI within five years will qualify for felony status, as will an “aggravated” DWI that involves a BAC of .18% or higher. It’s also possible for some DWAI convictions to qualify for felony status depending on the combination of substances the defendant consumed before driving.

Q: Do I Really Need an Attorney to Fight a DWI Charge in New York?

A: Reliable defense counsel on your side dramatically improves your ability to fight the charges you face. Your defense lawyer can uncover options for defense you may not have recognized on your own, potentially helping you reduce your sentence dramatically. It is always worth taking full advantage of your right to legal counsel whenever you are accused of a crime in New York.

Attorney Michael Vitaliano has years of experience defending New York clients in a wide range of DWI and DWAI cases. Our team understands that it can be incredibly isolating and distressing to experience a DWI arrest, and you may not know your best available legal options in this situation. If you or a loved one needs defense counsel following a DWI arrest in New York, contact the Vitaliano Law Firm today and schedule your consultation with a DWI defense attorney you can trust.