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DWAI stands for Driving While Ability Impaired. This is a criminal offense that may result in large fines, jail time and suspension of a driver’s license. It differs from a DUI in that the driver has consumed alcohol or drugs to the extent that he or she is not able to exercise clear judgment. The driver’s blood alcohol content may be less than the legal limit of .08, but he or she may still be driving unsafely.
Arrest for DWAI typically begins with a failed roadside sobriety test after you are seen driving erratically. The arresting officer may ask that you stand on one foot or walk in a straight line. You will be handcuffed and taken to jail as your car is towed and impounded.
Once you are arrested, you will be asked to take a BAC test. In operating a vehicle, you are giving consent to chemical testing of your breath, blood or urine for blood. If you refuse, you may be required to outfit your car with an ignition interlock device for up to two years.
A first offense DWAI offers several administrative penalties. Among these is a three month suspension of the driver’s license. Additionally, the driver’s license will have up to 12 points added to it. Completion of a treatment program for substance abuse allows for reinstatement of the license. Some drivers are also required to use ignition interlock devices, which check a driver’s BAC, when they drive.
Additionally, drivers with first offense DWAI convictions are typically required to spend at least two days and up to 180 days in jail. Drivers are also subjected to fines up to $500.
Harsher penalties may be imposed upon those who involved a child in the intoxicated driving, who were driving without licenses or who caused serious injury or death from behind the wheel.
Is it a DUI or DWAI?
The main difference between a DUI and a DWAI is the blood alcohol content. A BAC above .05 but below .08 is likely to lead to a DWAI charge. A BAC above .08 leads to a DUI.
Should You Hire a Lawyer?
The financial burden of a DWAI — even a first offense — is nothing to turn your nose at. If you are found guilty, you may miss work and spend time in jail. Fortunately, legal counsel may help to ensure that this does not happen.
It is always wise to hire a lawyer as soon as you have been arrested and charged with a crime. Your defense attorney will fight for you in court, ensuring that your rights have not been violated. In many situations, cases are thrown out simply because the rights of the defendant were not respected.
The acronyms DWI and DUI are familiar to most people, but those same individuals may be hard-pressed to figure out what DWAI stands for, or what the difference is between each of the terms. In truth, it stands for Driving While Ability Impaired, and is based on a small range with regard to blood alcohol content (BAC).
That BAC range is generally greater than .05 and less than .08, which is the legal definition of drunk driving. In the case of those arrested for DWAI due to drugs, a determination is made
Individuals who are charged in DWAI cases should be aware that a first-time arrest for this is only considered to be a traffic violation, whereas a full-fledged DUI or DWI is a criminal misdemeanor.
The reason DWAI may not be as widely known as the others involved is the fact that only two states: New York and Colorado, have this select branch of the DWI/DUI tree.
The cause of the DWAI could play a role in any subsequent sentence, due to the differences between alcohol and drugs, or any combination of the two. The usual sentence will often mirror that of a DUI—the effect on a person’s driving record is where this can possibly be a benefit.
A Second DWAI in New York
However, when a person is arrested for a second DWAI within five years of the previous date of conviction, the penalties become harsher, with the fines and potential jail time effectively doubling.
For example, in New York, the fine is from between $500-$700 and up to 30 days in jail, or both. That’s followed a license suspension that’s at least six months. In addition, the individual has to undergo alcohol evaluation, and/or rehabilitation. An official note citing completion of it then has to be presented to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
During this time, the individual won’t be eligible for a conditional license, which would allow them to use their vehicle to get to work, school or deal with specific errands.
It’s possible in some cases that if the prosecutor or presiding judge feels that this subsequent arrest was especially egregious, they can revoke the license registration for six months or longer.
Other restrictions and costs include a surcharge as well as assessment of driver responsibility. In the latter case, that must take place once a year for three straight years, and will cost $250 each time.
The final requirement is meant to show the emotional impact of the effects of alcohol-based offenses. Here, the individual must attend a Victim Impact Panel, where people whose family members or friends have died in these type of accidents, speak to them.
Invaluable Legal Help
This issue is serious enough that having proper legal representation is imperative to making sure that the situation is approached in the proper manner. Without it, the chances for more severe sentences exist.
Driving while ability impaired, or DWAI, is a traffic infraction that carries some serious penalties. The potential punishments you face get more substantial when you have multiple offenses. A third offense carries the maximum penalties possible. You should know about the penalties for third and subsequent DWAI convictions.
License and Registration Revocation
If you have been convicted of a third DWAI within a decade, then your license is going to be automatically revoked. The law states that it must be revoked for no less than six months. The judge could easily increase this to a year or more if the incident was very serious. Additionally, the judge has the discretion to revoke the registration for your vehicle. If this occurs, then your registration will be revoked for a minimum of 180 days as well.
Third and subsequent convictions carry mandatory fines. You can be ordered to pay a minimum of $750 and a maximum of $1,500 depending on the circumstances. This is unavoidable. You are also going to be required to pay a surcharge of around $400 depending on exactly where the charges are filed in the state.
Possible Time in Jail
You can be sent to jail if you are convicted of DWAI for a third time. The likelihood of going to jail will increase with each subsequent offense after that. You can be placed in jail for up to 180 days. Alternately, you might get no jail time depending on the details of the case.
Driver Responsibility Assessments
Another penalty you will have to face after a third or higher DWAI offense is an annual driver responsibility assessment. The assessment is a monetary fine that you need to pay when convicted of certain traffic offenses. The fine is $250. You must pay this for the next three consecutive years after the conviction in addition to any other penalties or fines. The fee is required even if you do not regain your license.
Rehabilitation for Relicensing
If you want to get your driver’s license back at the end of the revocation period, then a third DWAI offense means you will have to show some evidence of rehabilitation before the possibility is even considered. You will need to attend a licensed substance abuse recovery program and complete it successfully. While not being part of the law, this is almost always required.
Use Ignition Interlock Devices
If you do eventually get a license again, then you are going to go through a probationary period. You will be required to use an ignition interlock device on your vehicle during this time. The device is usually something that tests your breath for alcohol before the car will start. Some also require testing while you are driving. You are required to pay monthly fees for using the ignition interlock device.
Go To a Victim Impact Panel
A final penalty for a third or subsequent DWAI offense is attending a victim impact panel. You might have to attend just one or multiple panels. These sessions involve presentations by law enforcement, experts and victims of DWAI accidents. The panels are designed to show the consequences of driving while impaired.
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