What Is The Legal Standard For DWI In Comparison To DWAI In Buffalo?

The most commonly charged drinking and driving offense in the Buffalo area is Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).

New York law defines this offense as operating a motor vehicle “in an intoxicated condition.”

The lesser offense of Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI) is defined as operating a motor vehicle while “impaired by the consumption of alcohol.”

The statutes defining these offenses offer no further guidance regarding the difference between being “intoxicated” and being “impaired.”

While this leaves the decision regarding whether someone is intoxicated or merely impaired largely in the hands of the trial judge or jury, the courts have attempted to offer some guidance regarding the difference between these offenses.

While different courts have offered various definitions regarding the standard that should be applied when making this determination, the most commonly cited decision in New York State indicates that to be considered intoxicated, a driver must be incapable of employing the physical and mental abilities which he or she is expected to possess in order to operate a vehicle as a reasonable and prudent driver.

In contrast, a driver should be considered impaired when he or she has actually impaired, to any extent, the physical and mental abilities which he or she is expected to possess in order to operate a vehicle as a reasonable and prudent driver.

While the offense of DWI is much more commonly charged than DWAI, these definitions indicate that the standard for proving that someone was intoxicated is very high.

As a result, when the degree of impairment by alcohol is in dispute, it is important to have an experienced DWI lawyer who understands how to argue that the defendant’s condition did not reach the legal standard of intoxication.

If you have been arrested for DWI, we can help you at 716-542-5444.

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