Almost everyone has heard the terms DWI and DUI, and many think that both are interchangeable. New York law uses a third term – DWAI. None of these terms are interchangeable, and New York law does not use the term DUI or driving under the influence.
In New York, there are two main “drunk driving offenses” – DWI and DWAI. DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated,” while DWAI stands for “driving while ability impaired.” A DWI means that the driver is legally intoxicated, with a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08 percent. A DWAI involving alcohol means the driver’s blood alcohol content is between 0.05 and 0.07 percent.
Although the penalties for a New York DWI and DWAI are nearly the same, there is a big difference between them regarding the offense level. A DWI conviction is a criminal offense, while a DWAI conviction is a violation – which in New York is a non-criminal offense.
The practical effect of this distinction is that a DWAI conviction will appear on a New York driving record (usually stated as “driving while impaired”), but the court conviction will not appear on a New York Statewide CHRS report because these reports do not include non-criminal offenses such as violations.