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What is a DWAI in Buffalo, NY?

In Buffalo, NY, as well as throughout the state, motorists can face various types of alcohol and drug-related driving offenses, with Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) being one of the distinct charges that differ from Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Understanding the nuances of a DWAI, its potential consequences, and how it differs from a DWI is crucial for anyone facing these charges or aiming to understand New York State's traffic laws.

What is a DWAI?

What is a DWAI in Buffalo

Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) in New York refers to a situation where a driver operates a vehicle while their ability to do so is impaired by alcohol or drugs, but not to the extent required for a DWI charge. DWAI can be categorized based on the substance causing impairment:

  • DWAI/Alcohol: This occurs when a driver's Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is more than 0.05% but less than 0.08%. While this is lower than the BAC threshold for a DWI, it suggests that the driver's ability to operate a vehicle safely is compromised by alcohol consumption.
  • DWAI/Drugs: This refers to impairment resulting from the use of a drug other than alcohol. This can include legal prescription medication, over-the-counter drugs, and illegal substances that impair the driver's ability to drive safely.
  • DWAI/Combination: This charge is applied when the driver is impaired due to a combination of alcohol and drugs.

Legal Implications of a DWAI

Facing a Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) charge in New York can lead to various legal implications that could significantly affect your life. Understanding these potential consequences is crucial for anyone charged with a DWAI, as they impact not only legal status but also financial, professional, and personal aspects. Here’s a closer look at the legal implications of a DWAI in New York:

Criminal Penalties

The penalties for a DWAI vary depending on the substance involved (alcohol, drugs, or both) and the number of offenses. Here are the general guidelines:

  • DWAI/Alcohol (first offense): Considered a traffic infraction rather than a criminal offense. Penalties can include a fine of $300 to $500, up to 15 days in jail, and a 90-day driver's license suspension.
  • DWAI/Drugs or DWAI/Combination (first offense): These are misdemeanor criminal offenses. Penalties can include a fine of $500 to $1,000, up to 1 year in jail, and a minimum six-month driver’s license suspension.
  • Subsequent offenses: Penalties increase with subsequent offenses within a 10-year period, often resulting in longer jail terms, higher fines, and extended driver’s license suspensions or revocations.

Impact on Driver's License

A DWAI conviction typically results in the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. The duration of the suspension or revocation can vary based on the specific type of DWAI and any prior offenses:

  • First-time DWAI/Alcohol: 90 days suspension.
  • First-time DWAI/Drugs or Combination: At least six months suspension.
  • Repeat offenses: Longer suspensions or revocations, potentially including permanent loss of driving privileges for multiple repeat offenses.

Insurance Consequences

A DWAI conviction will likely lead to increased car insurance premiums. Insurance companies view drivers with DWAI convictions as high-risk, which can lead to significantly higher rates or even the possibility of insurance cancellation or non-renewal.

Employment Implications

A DWAI conviction can have serious implications for your current job and future employment opportunities, especially if your job involves driving. Employers often conduct background checks that include driving records, and a DWAI can be a disqualifying factor for roles requiring clean licenses.

Travel and Immigration Issues

A DWAI conviction may also impact your ability to travel internationally, particularly to countries with strict entry requirements like Canada, which views DUIs and related offenses as serious crimes. Additionally, non-citizen DWAI offenders may face immigration issues such as visa denials, deportations, or ineligibility for naturalization.

Educational and Professional Licenses

Students may face disciplinary action from their educational institutions, while professionals with certain licenses (like doctors, nurses, or pilots) may face investigations and possible disciplinary actions from licensing boards, potentially resulting in suspension or revocation of professional licenses.

Social Stigma and Personal Relationships

The social stigma attached to a DWAI conviction can strain personal relationships and social interactions. Being labeled as someone who has been legally penalized for impaired driving can impact personal reputation and social opportunities.

Differences Between DWAI and DWI

The main difference between DWAI and DWI lies in the degree of impairment and the BAC level:

  • DWAI: As mentioned, DWAI charges are typically based on a BAC of more than 0.05% but less than 0.08%, or evidence of impairment by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol.
  • DWI: This charge is used when the driver's BAC is 0.08% or higher, or there is other substantial evidence of severe impairment.

What To Do if Charged with a DWAI in Buffalo

If you find yourself charged with a Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) in Buffalo, NY, it is crucial to take immediate and informed actions to protect your rights and handle the situation effectively. Here are essential steps to follow if you're charged with a DWAI:

Understand the Charges

First, clarify what you are being charged with. DWAI can refer to impairment by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. The specifics of your charge can affect the legal strategies available to you, as well as the potential penalties.

Remain Calm and Cooperative

During your interaction with law enforcement, staying calm and polite is important. Do not argue or resist, as this could lead to additional charges or complicate your case. However, you should exercise your right to remain silent beyond providing your identification and necessary documentation.

Do Not Admit Fault

Avoid discussing the incident with police beyond necessary communication. Admitting fault or discussing details could be detrimental to your case. Politely decline to answer probing questions without the presence of your attorney.

Contact a DWAI Lawyer

Contact a DWAI lawyer with experience in these cases as soon as possible. A qualified attorney can provide legal advice tailored to your situation, help you understand your rights, and formulate a defense strategy. In DWAI cases, having legal representation is crucial for navigating the complexities of the legal process and potentially mitigating the consequences.

Document Everything

Write down everything you remember about the incident, including what you consumed before driving, the reason for the traffic stop, how field sobriety tests were conducted, and any statements made by law enforcement. These details can be crucial for your defense.

Comply with Legal Obligations

Follow all legal instructions and court mandates. This may include appearing in court on designated dates or submitting to certain tests. Non-compliance can lead to more severe penalties or additional charges.

Request Your DMV Hearing

In New York, a DWAI charge may lead to the suspension of your driving privileges. You typically have a limited time (usually within 15 days of your arrest) to request a hearing from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This hearing is an opportunity to argue against the suspension of your driver's license.

Prepare for Possible Outcomes

Discuss the potential outcomes of your case with your attorney. Understanding the best and worst-case scenarios can help you prepare mentally and financially for what lies ahead. This may involve discussing plea deals or preparing for trial.

Consider Rehabilitation Programs

Depending on your case, participating in alcohol or drug rehabilitation programs might be advisable or even required. Such programs can sometimes influence the court's decision, potentially reducing penalties.

Stay Informed and Involved

Stay actively involved in your defense by maintaining regular communication with your lawyer, attending all legal appointments, and keeping track of court proceedings and dates. Being proactive in your defense is essential.

Defenses We May Use in Your DWAI Case

Defending against a charge of Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) in New York involves several potential strategies that can be employed based on the specifics of your case. An experienced DWAI attorney can assess the details surrounding the arrest and the evidence gathered to determine the most effective defense. Here are some common defenses against a DWAI charge:

Questioning the Legality of the Traffic Stop

A foundational defense often used in DWAI cases is challenging the legality of the initial traffic stop. Law enforcement must have a valid reason, known as "reasonable suspicion," to stop your vehicle. If the attorney can demonstrate that the police officer did not have a lawful basis to initiate the traffic stop, any evidence gathered during the stop could potentially be suppressed, weakening the prosecution's case.

Challenging the Field Sobriety Tests

Police commonly use field sobriety tests (FSTs) to establish impairment. However, these tests can be highly subjective and prone to inaccuracies. Factors such as uneven road surfaces, poor weather conditions, the subject's physical or medical conditions, or even nervousness can affect the results. An experienced attorney can challenge the administration or accuracy of these tests in court.

Disputing the Chemical Test Results

Chemical tests (like breathalyzers for alcohol and blood or urine tests for drugs) are another mainstay of DWAI prosecutions but are not infallible. These tests must be conducted using properly calibrated and maintained equipment and by certified personnel following strict procedures. Errors in any of these areas can lead to false readings. Legal counsel can question the validity of the chemical test results based on these factors.

Rising Blood Alcohol Concentration

The defense of rising blood alcohol concentration (BAC) argues that the defendant's BAC was below the legal limit while driving but increased between the time of driving and the time the test was administered. Alcohol can take time to absorb into the bloodstream fully, so BAC can rise, reaching or exceeding the legal limit post-driving.

Medical and Health Issues

Certain medical conditions can mimic the symptoms of impairment, such as slurred speech, imbalance, or disorientation. Conditions such as diabetes, neurological disorders, or physical disabilities can be mistaken for signs of drug or alcohol impairment. Additionally, some medical conditions can also affect the accuracy of breathalyzer tests.

Improper Police Conduct

This defense scrutinizes the conduct of the arresting officers to ensure that all legal procedures were followed correctly. Any deviation from standard legal practices, such as failing to administer Miranda warnings, improperly handling evidence, or violating constitutional rights, can be grounds for dismissing or reducing the charges.

Lack of Evidence of Impairment

In some DWAI cases, especially those involving drugs, the prosecution may lack concrete evidence of actual impairment. An attorney can argue that the lack of clear, objective evidence of impairment undermines the basis of the charge.

Witness Testimony

Eyewitness testimony from passengers or bystanders contradicting the prosecution's account can also be a powerful defense. Such testimony can support claims that the defendant was not driving erratically or showing signs of impairment.

Given the complexity of DWAI cases and the serious consequences of a conviction, having skilled legal representation is crucial. A DWAI defense attorney can provide the necessary experience to navigate the legal challenges and advocate effectively on your behalf. If you or someone you know is facing DWAI charges, consulting with a knowledgeable attorney as early as possible can significantly impact the outcome of the case.

Why You Need a DWAI Lawyer

If you are facing a DWAI charge in Buffalo, NY, it is important to seek experienced legal representation. A knowledgeable attorney from Trbovich Law Firm can help you understand the charges against you, explore your defense options, and navigate the complexities of the legal system. Our team is committed to protecting your rights and achieving the best possible outcome for your case.

Charged with a DWAI in Buffalo, NY? Get Legal Help Now.

Facing a DWAI charge can be overwhelming, but you don't have to handle it alone. Contact Trbovich Law Firm today for comprehensive legal support. Our experienced DWAI attorneys are ready to guide you through the legal process, protect your rights, and work toward the best possible outcome for your case. Don't wait—your future and your rights matter. Call us now to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward effective representation.

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