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NY Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.1: Driving While Ability Impaired

In New York there are several offenses related to driving while under the influence of alcohol. The least severe offense is defined in New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.1 as driving while ability impaired (DWAI), meaning that you were found to have driving a vehicle while your ability to drive that vehicle was impaired by alcohol. Unlike the offense of driving while intoxicated per se as defined in New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.2, to be convicted for DWAI it is no necessary for the prosecutor to show that you had a blood alcohol content of at least .08. It is only necessary to show that you were driving and that you were impaired by alcohol. This offense is not a crime but a traffic infraction.


A woman and her friend go out to a nightclub where both have a few mixed drinks. When it is time to leave the woman feels too intoxicated to drive, so she tosses her keys to her friend. Although the friend feels a little lightheaded, she decides to drive as her apartment is only about a mile away. She drives very carefully and very slowly. So slowly that she is noticed by a police officer as driving in a suspicious manner. He pulls her over, smells alcohol on her breath and asks her to take a field sobriety test. The police officer arrests her on suspicion of driving while ability impaired. Even though the chemical test showed that her blood alcohol content was only .06, she could still be convicted of DWAI because her manner of driving was evidence that she was impaired.

Related Offenses
  1. Driving while intoxicated; per se: New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.2
  2. Aggravated driving while intoxicated; per se: New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.2(2-a)
  3. Aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child: New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.2-a(b)
  4. Driving while intoxicated: New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.3
  5. Driving while ability impaired by drugs: New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.4

Depending on the circumstances of your case, there are a number of possible defenses to a DWAI charge. For example, you may be able to challenge the basis for the stop. If the police officer did not have probable cause to stop, detain and arrest you, then you may be able to get evidence gathered from the stop suppressed. Another possible defense is that the results of the field sobriety results were not accurate. Field sobriety test results can be tainted by a number of factors including illness, medication, and even obesity.


If convicted of driving while ability impaired your punishment will depend on your driving record.

  1. First DWI offense convictions within the prior 5 years: Convicted of a traffic infraction with a fine of $300-$500, up to 15 days, or both.
  2. Second DWI offense convictions within the prior 5 years: Convicted of a traffic infraction with a fine of $500-$750, up to 30 days in jail, or both.
  3. At least 3 or more DWI convictions within prior 10 years: Convicted of a misdemeanor with a fine of $750-$1500, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.1: Driving while ability impaired

Driving while ability impaired. No person shall operate a motor vehicle while the person's ability to operate such motor vehicle is impaired by the consumption of alcohol.

The Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates can help

If you are charged with DWAI you need representation by someone who understands the law, including the rules surrounding the proper administration of field sobriety tests. The police must following certain rules in order for a BAC test to be valid and in order for a DWAI arrest to be proper. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with reckless driving, DUI, vehicular homicide, and other serious crimes. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of larceny in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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