While alcohol drunk driving gets the most attention, it is also against the law in New York to drive when you are impaired by drugs, or when you are under the influence of both drugs and alcohol. As soon as drugs become involved, an arrest becomes much more complex, largely because of how difficult it is to detect the presence of drugs in your system and to determine the effects of the drug(s) on your ability to operate a mote vehicle. However, the penalties that you can face if you get convicted are still very serious.
DRIVING WHILE ABILITY IMPAIRED (DWAI): DRUGS
New York's Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1192(4) prohibits drivers in the state from driving “a motor vehicle while the person's ability to operate such a motor vehicle is impaired by the use of a drug.”
Commonly referred to as Driving While Ability Impaired by a Drug Other than Alcohol, or DWAI/Drug, you can be arrested for violating this statute if a police officer is convinced that you were driving while impaired under the influence of a drug. Importantly, DWAI/Drug arrests and convictions are not just for drugs that are illegal, like cocaine or heroin; they are also for legal or even prescription drugs that prevent you from driving safely. The fact that the drug or drugs that you consumed may have been prescribed to you by a licensed physician is no defense to the charge of DWAI/Drug.
DRIVING WHILE ABILITY IMPAIRED (DWAI): COMBINATION OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
Additionally, Section 1192(4-a) prohibits driving while impaired by a combination of drugs and alcohol. Often referred to as Driving While Ability Impaired by a Combined Influence of Drugs or Alcohol, or DWAI/Combination, you can find yourself under arrest and facing charges if a police officer believes that you are impaired by a combination of substances.
The penalties for both DWAI/Drug and DWAI/Combination are not trivial, and grow worse if you are convicted multiple times within a period of ten years. The penalties are essentially identical to a DWI conviction, except that with a DWAI/Drug conviction you only need to be impaired and not intoxicated to be convicted. With a DWAI/Drug conviction, you are not eligible for a conditional driver's license but you may be eligible for a restricted use driver's license. Unlike a DWI conviction, if you are convicted of DWAI/Drug you will not be required to install an ignition interlock device on any motor vehicle that you own or may operate.
THE PROBLEM OF PROOF
Unlike a typical alcohol drunk driving case, where police normally use a breathalyzer to measure a driver's blood alcohol content (BAC), and a driver with a BAC reading of .08% or more is deemed to be intoxicated; there is no such numerical percentile for drugs. In order to be convicted of DWAI/Drug, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you ingested a drug that is proscribed under Section 3306 of the Public Health Law, and that your ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by the ingestion of the proscribed drug or drugs. DWAI cases involving drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol rely heavily on a police officer's observations. These observations can be notoriously unreliable.
Even if a subsequent blood or urine test reveals that you have drugs in your system, that does not necessarily mean that you were too impaired to drive.
HUDSON VALLEY DWAI ATTORNEY KENNETH PUIG
Kenneth Puig defends people in New York state and the Hudson Valley who have been accused of drugged driving. Contact him online for the legal help you need to beat these accusations.