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Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs

Under the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL), it is not only a crime in New York to operate a motor vehicle while a person is intoxicated by alcohol or drunk, but also while a person's ability to operate the motor vehicle is impaired by drugs under VTL 1192(4), or by a combination of alcohol and drugs under VTL 1192(4-a). Regardless of which offense you are arrested for, driving while intoxicated pursuant to either of these crimes is the functional equivalent of an alcohol related DWI or DUI arrest in terms of a criminal record, potential jail and other penalties.

DWAI Drugs v. DWI Alcohol

In order for a person to be convicted of DWAI based on the consumption of drugs, VTL 1192(4) or VTL 1192(4-a), the prosecutor or District Attorney's Office must prove that the person charged ingested a drug listed under the New York State Public Health Law 3306, that the person charged drove a car after ingesting the drug, and that the drug impaired the person's ability to operate the motor vehicle safely. It's important to note that “impaired” has a very specific meaning in New York. Unlike DWI or Driving While Intoxicated, where it must be proven that the alcohol “substantially” incapable of operating the car safely, in a DWAI charge for drugs in New York State, the DA's Office must only prove that the drug impaired the person's ability to drive to any degree. This is a much lower threshold to meet. Having a DWI lawyer or criminal attorney who understands this critical difference, and who can advise you and defend your case with this in mind, is essential.

A Per Se DWI Standard for Drugs in NY

Another significant difference for DWAI based on controlled substances, narcotics, or other drugs is that a person may be proven guilty of DWI based on alcohol by a showing that they had a BAC or blood alcohol content of .08% or greater, with no evidence necessary as to how they were actually driving (discuss the difference between “driving” and “operating” with your DWI lawyer) or whether they were actually substantially impaired by alcohol. This is known as being “per se” intoxicated, or “per se” DWI. When it comes to drugs, there is no such “per se” standard, and the person's condition as observed by law enforcement, and the way in which they were driving the car will typically be the focal point of the case. This results in a much more subjective standard and analysis, and having a trial attorney who can clarify the fact-specific circumstances of your case for a judge or jury can make an enormous difference in your efforts to protect your rights.

It is important to note that it is not a defense to a DWAI charge based on drugs that the drugs in questions were legally prescribed to you, or that you were taking them as ordered and prescribed by the doctor. The critical question is whether the person took those drugs voluntarily, drove a car, and whether and to what extent those drugs impaired the person's ability to drive safely to any degree. It can however be a defense if the person took more than prescribed and taking the correct dosage would not have resulted in impairment.

DWAI Drugs: From Marijuana to Opioids

Some of the drugs that are frequently involved in arrests for VTL 1192(4) and VTL 1192(4-a) charges, and which are covered under the Public Health Law, PHL, as it relates to DWAI, are: Xanax (Alprazolam); Diazepam (Valium); Lorazepam (Aivan); Clonazepam (Klonopin); Opioids such as xycodone; Barbiturates such as phenobarbital; stimulants like Aderall or Ritalin; as well as drugs that are strictly illegal such as heroin and cocaine. Marijuana and cannabis, as well as concentrated cannabis, can also be the basis for a DWAI arrest.

DWAI Drugs and Drug Recognition Experts

In order to be found guilty of DWAI drugs, a person charged must be examined by a properly trained and qualified drug recognition expert (DRE). While police officer's observations at the scene of an arrest may be sufficient to initially charge a person, this DRE will be required to move the case forward or ultimately convict a person at a trial. Without this DRE, your criminal lawyer will have the means to cross examine the arresting officer and the prosecution’s ability to prove their case of VTL 1192(4) or VTL 1192(4-a) beyond a reasonable doubt.

Penalties for a DWAI Conviction in New York State

The penalties for a conviction to DWAI based on drugs, VTL 1192(4), will depend on whether it is a person's first, second or third conviction. For a first time conviction under this law, a person faces a fine of between $500 and $1000, up to 1 year in jail, probation of up to 3 years, and a 6 month license revocation as well as treatment programs and surcharges. Subsequent convictions of the same crime essentially raise the range of fines up to a maximum of $10,000, increase the length of the license revocation to 1 year, and increase the possible length of probation to 5 years. These criminal related consequences do not begin to address the collateral ones to your insurance, ability to drive, the DMV, immigration and professional licensing.

If you are arrested for and charged with a DWI or DWAI crime whether it relates to operating a motor vehicle based while impaired by drugs or intoxicated by alcohol, take the steps to protect yourself and your future. Contact the criminal lawyers and former DWI prosecutors at Saland Law.The New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law represent clients in DWI and DWAI cases and other cases involving drugs and drinking and driving allegations throughout the New York City and Hudson Valley region, including Rockland County, Westchester County, Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn.

Call the New York DWI and DWAI Lawyers at Saland Law at 212.312.7129 or Contact Us Online to Start Your Criminal Defense Now.

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