In New York, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense. However, it can be confusing for many to understand the differences between DUI, DWI, and DWAI in NY state. This article clarifies each term's definition, legal BAC limits, and the ensuing penalties and repercussions.

New York DUI vs DWI vs DWAI: Understanding the Difference

DWI vs DUI in New York State

DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated,” while DUI stands for “Driving Under the Influence.” Although people often use these terms interchangeably, their official usage in state laws varies across the country. Many states consider a person too drunk to drive if their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is at least .08%. 

In New York, people often use the terms DUI and DWI interchangeably, but they have different legal implications. New York primarily uses DWI to refer to impaired driving due to alcohol or drugs.

New York state DWI limit for a driver with a BAC of over .08%. For drivers of commercial motor vehicles, the legal limit is lower, set at .04% BAC. In both cases, experts consider the individual too impaired to operate a vehicle safely.

Aggravated DWI is a more serious type of DWI in New York (BAC level of .18%). The higher BAC level signifies a significantly greater degree of intoxication, posing an even greater risk to road safety. Therefore, the penalties for Aggravated DWI are typically more severe than those for standard DWI offenses.

What happens when you get a DWI in NY?

Getting DWI charges in NY can have significant legal, financial, and personal consequences. Authorities consider a DWI in New York  a criminal offense. If you have broken the law in the past, you may face consequences. If the court convicts you of a DWI offense, you can expect to face the following repercussions:

First-time DWI penalties in New York vary based on factors like blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and aggravating circumstances. First-time offenders may receive a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000. Authorities could suspend their license for a minimum of six months. They may also need to attend alcohol education or treatment programs.

For a second DWI offense in NY, you might get higher fines, a longer license suspension, and potential jail. Additionally, the court may mandate participation in alcohol treatment programs, installation of an ignition interlock device, and extended probation periods.

Upon a DWI conviction, the authorities will suspend or revoke your driver's license. The suspension or revocation period for your license can vary. It depends on your BAC level, past offenses, and any aggravating factors.

Ignition Interlock Device: You may need to install an IID in your vehicle in many cases. An Ignition Interlock Device (IID) makes you take a breathalyzer test before starting your vehicle.

You may have to go to alcohol education or treatment programs as part of your sentence. These programs aim to address any underlying issues related to alcohol abuse and reduce the likelihood of future offenses.

Increased Insurance Costs: A DWI conviction can lead to a significant increase in your auto insurance premiums. Some insurance companies may even refuse to provide coverage to individuals with a DWI on their record.

Criminal Record: Perhaps most significantly, a DWI conviction results in a permanent criminal record. This record can have far-reaching consequences, affecting your employment opportunities, housing options, and personal relationships.

NY Penalties for a DWI

Here's a comprehensive overview of the penalties associated with different types of impaired driving offenses in the NY state:

Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (Aggravated DWI): This offense occurs when a driver's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is .18% or higher. Penalties range from $1,000 to $2,500 in fines, a license revocation for at least one year, and possible imprisonment.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI): DWI involves operating a vehicle with a BAC of .08% or higher. Breaking the rules again could result in penalties. These penalties may include a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000.

Zero Tolerance Law applies to drivers under 21. If caught driving with a BAC of .02% or higher, you may face a $125 fine. They could suspend your license and require you to attend an alcohol awareness program.

In addition to these penalties, there are additional consequences and surcharges that may apply:

Greater penalties can apply for multiple alcohol or drug violations within a 25-year period.

Authorities add extra fees to alcohol-related crimes. The fee is $260 for misdemeanors and around $400 for felonies, but the exact amount may vary depending on the court.

Drivers with three or more alcohol or drug-related convictions within 10 years may face permanent license revocation. Authorities will bar these drivers from legally driving anymore. The revocation of their license is a consequence of their repeated offenses. Understanding the serious consequences of driving under the influence is crucial for drivers.

Furthermore, drivers with certain prior offenses may receive enhanced penalties:

A driver with an Aggravated DWI violation within the last 10 years will get at least an 18-month license revocation for a new DWI, DWAI/Drugs, or DWAI/Combination conviction.

A driver with a prior DWI, Aggravated DWI, DWAI/Drugs, or DWAI/Combination within the prior 10 years will receive a minimum 18-month revocation.

Understanding the legal consequences of driving under the influence in New York is important. If you face charges, it's crucial to seek help from DWI lawyers. For more detailed information, refer to the You and the Drinking Driving Laws resource provided by the state.

What is DWAI in New York?

DWAI is a less severe charge than DUI or DWI, suggesting a lower level of impairment. It applies when a driver's BAC is above 0.05% but below 0.08%, or if their ability to drive is affected by alcohol or drugs, even if their BAC is below 0.05%. For instance, a driver with a BAC of 0.07% showing signs of impairment.

Three separate offenses related to impaired driving in New York

DWAI/Alcohol: This happens when someone drives with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) between .05% and .07%. Or if there are other signs indicating impairment by alcohol. Although the BAC is below the legal limit for DWI (.08%), driving ability is still impaired.

DWAI/Drug: This occurs when someone drives impaired by a single drug other than alcohol. It involves situations where the drug's effects hinder driving, even if it's prescribed legally.

DWAI/Combination: This happens when someone drives impaired by a mix of drugs or alcohol. It applies when both drugs and alcohol affect driving ability, even if the BAC is below .08%.

What happens if you get DWAI in NY?

Getting a DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) in New York brings less severe but still significant consequences compared to a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). Here's what usually happens:

Criminal Charges: DWAI is a misdemeanor in New York, so a conviction means having a misdemeanor on your record.

Fines: The fines for a DWAI offense in New York range from $300 to $500 for a first offense.

License Suspension: Your driver's license will be suspended for at least 90 days, possibly longer if you're under 21.

Possible Imprisonment: Although less common than for DWI, imprisonment is still possible, especially for repeat offenses or aggravating factors.

Ignition Interlock Device: You might need to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, especially for repeat offenses or higher BAC levels.

Alcohol Education Programs: You may have to attend alcohol education or treatment programs as part of your sentence.

Overall, DWAI carries serious legal consequences, though not as severe as DWI. If you're accused of DWAI in New York, it's crucial to consider hiring a DWAI lawyer to understand your rights and defense options.




DUI stands for "Driving Under the Influence" and DWI stands for "Driving While Intoxicated". The meaning of DWAI is "Driving While Ability Impaired." In New York, DUI and DWI are often used interchangeably and refer to operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit. DWAI indicates impairment below the legal threshold for DWI.


In New York, the legal BAC limit for most drivers is 0.08%. For commercial drivers, including those operating commercial motor vehicles, buses, and taxis, the legal limit is 0.04%.


Yes, you can refuse to take a breathalyzer or chemical test during a traffic stop in New York. However, refusing to submit to such tests carries consequences, including license suspension or revocation and other penalties.


Consequences of refusing a breathalyzer or chemical test in New York may include immediate license suspension or revocation, fines, and other administrative penalties. Additionally, refusal to take such tests can be used against you in court.


Depending on the circumstances, you may face immediate license suspension or revocation following a DWI or DWAI charge in New York. It's essential to consult with a legal professional to understand your rights and options.


Yes, there are alternatives to imprisonment for DWI or DWAI convictions in New York. Probation, participation in alcohol treatment programs, ignition interlock device installation, community service, and fines.


If you're arrested for DWI or DWAI in New York, it's essential to remain calm and cooperate with law enforcement. Refrain from making any statements without consulting with a lawyer. Contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible to understand your rights and legal options.


If you receive three DWI convictions in New York, the penalties become significantly more severe. Typically, a third DWI offense within a specified timeframe results in harsher consequences, including higher fines, longer license revocation periods, and potential felony charges. Additionally, the court may impose mandatory alcohol treatment programs, ignition interlock device installation, and extended periods of probation or imprisonment.