Drunk driving is a serious offense and can lead to suspension or revocation of your driver's license, hefty fines and even jail terms. Driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving under the influence (DUI), and driving while ability impaired (DWAI) are terms used to describe various punishable drunk driving offenses, although the blood alcohol limit defining each of these terms differs from state to state.
It's critical to know that you may also be guilty of DWI/DWAI for driving when your physical abilities are impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. In the eyes of the law, it makes no difference whether the drug is legal or illegal, prescription or over-the-counter. If taking that drug impacts your senses of seeing, hearing, talking, walking and/or judging distances, you may be guilty of a drunk driving offense.
Following are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about drunk driving. If you have a specific question that isn't answered, use our online form to submit your question and get a personalized response from an attorney at WylieLaw.
The Difference Between DWI, DUI, DWAI
The Difference Between Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI)
In New York State, DWI and DWAI are the legal terms used in drunk driving. The difference between DWI and DWAI is dependent on the blood alcohol level of the individual being charged. DUI is a drunk driving term, similar to DWI, used in other states. In New York,
To find out the legal limits in other states, check with your local bar association, law library, or consult with a DWI attorney in your area.
New York law allows for 'common law' drunk driving. Therefore, even without scientific evidence of a blood alcohol level, an individual can be charged with drunk driving. At trial, the arresting police officer could testify as to his observations of drunkenness at the time that he arrested the driver. This could include:
In New York, if you are charged with DWI and your blood alcohol content is alleged to be .10 or higher, you will face an automatic license suspension at the arraignment pending the outcome of the case. However, a request can be made to the arraigning Judge to grant a 20-day stay before suspending your license. The 20-day stay will give you sufficient time to apply for a conditional license that would allow you to drive to school or work pending the outcome of the case.
If you are arrested and charged with drunk driving, you can represent yourself although it is a terrible idea. This is similar to a doctor doing an appendectomy on him/herself. Drunk driving laws are complex with increasingly harsh and constantly changing penalties. It is always best to consult with an experienced attorney who will know the most recent and current rules and laws in this area.
If you are arrested for drunk driving, a qualified attorney can:
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects individuals from being forced to make self-incriminating statements. Therefore, if you are stopped by the police while driving and asked if you've been drinking, you have three basic alternative responses to this question:
If the police officer observes some evidence of alcohol usage, he/she will ask you to perform a series of "field sobriety tests" (FSTs). Typically, these tests measure your physical dexterity or mental acuity. Most officers will use a set battery of three to five of the following tests:
If you have chronic physical problems or physical limitations, have difficulty with your balance, walking, etc., it would be wise to inform the officer prior to taking the tests. Also, in many localities the police routinely videotape all stops. If so, the FST may also be videotaped.
Refusal to take an FST will most likely result in your arrest for drunk driving. However, if the officer is asking you to take this test, he/she has probably already decided to charge you with drunk driving. Also, as the FSTs are sometimes video recorded, if you perform well, this can be great visual evidence of your sobriety. Of course, if you perform poorly, this will be strong visual evidence of your drunkenness.
A "roadside breath test" or "breathalyzer" indicates the presence and/or concentration of alcohol in your body based on a breath sample. The purpose in giving this test is to determine if there is reasonable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence.
While you generally may refuse to take the test, your refusal may not stop the officer from arresting you if there is other evidence of alcohol usage (e.g., slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, clumsiness) that would affect your ability to drive. Your refusal might also have other negative consequences.
"Mouth alcohol" refers to the existence of any alcohol in the mouth or esophagus. If this is present during a breath test, then the results will be falsely high. This is because the breath machine assumes that the breath is from the lungs; for complex physiological reasons, its internal computer multiplies the amount of alcohol by 2100. Thus, even a tiny amount of alcohol breathed directly into the machine from the mouth or throat, rather than from the lungs, can have a significant impact.
Mouth alcohol can be caused in many ways:
Some of the information appearing in this section was based upon "California
DUI/DWI Information: The Driver's Guide to DUI" by Lawrence Taylor,