Drinking and Driving Offenses: DUI, DWI, DWAI
Whether it is referred to Driving While Intoxicated ("DWI"), Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol or Drugs (DWAI), Driving Under the Influence ("DUI") or Operating Under the Influence (OUI), New York has some of the toughest laws to deter drunk driving and operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs.
If you are stopped by the police in your vehicle and your blood alcohol content ("BAC") is 0.06% to 0.07%, you can be charged with Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol, which carries the penalty of a 90-day suspension of your driving privileges, fines, surcharges and assessments by the DMV. If your BAC is 0.08% or higher, you can be charged with Driving While Intoxicated, which is a crime in New York with penalties that include might include up to a year in jail, a six-month revocation of your driving privileges, installation of an ignition interlock device, high fines, surcharges and financial assessments by the DMV. If you are under 21, then you are considered in violation of law if you operate a vehicle with 0.02% or higher BAC.
While New York does not have a per se rule regarding a motorist's driving while ability impaired by drugs, if you are stopped by the police and they have reasonable cause to believe you are operating a motor vehicle while impaired by illegal drugs or prescription medications (or combination with alcohol), the police can arrest you for further testing.
Nevertheless, the police have a number of hurdles they must navigate when arresting a motorist for DWI, DUI or DWAI. Generally, the police must have probable cause to believe the motorist is committing a traffic infraction in their presence to justify the stop of your vehicle. Once the vehicle has been pulled over, the officer must establish a reason for detaining the motorist beyond the time necessary for issuing the traffic infraction ticket. Most commonly, the officer will stop the motorist for speeding or crossing the double yellow line and then approach the motorist's window to issue the ticket. Upon engaging with the motorist, the officer will invariably claim that they detected an odor of alcohol on the motorist's breath, glassy/red eyes, slurred speech, impaired motor coordination and other indicia of alcohol or drug impairment. Once officers make this observation, they have cause to detain the motorist further and ask him or her to step out of the vehicle to administer standard field sobriety tests and a breath screening test. If those standard field sobriety tests are failed, the police generally will have sufficient reasonable cause to take you into custody to administer a chemical test, most commonly, the Breathalyzer.
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