Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in New York

New York’s laws and penalties for drugged driving.

In New York, possible drugged driving offenses include the following:

  • Drug-DWAI. Driving a vehicle while “ability impaired” by the use of a drug is called “Drug DWAI.”
  • Combination-DWAI. Driving a vehicle while “ability impaired” by the use of a combination of alcohol and drugs is referred to as “Combination-DWAI.”

For DWAI offenses, “ability impaired” means the person’s physical and mental abilities to operate a vehicle as a “reasonable and prudent” driver are impaired to “any extent” by the use of drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs.

New York's Definition of Drug

For purposes of New York’s Drug-DWAI law, a “drug” means any substance listed as a controlled substance under the public health law. The law contains an extensive list of controlled substances including opiates, narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and many other substances.

A Combination-DWAI, on the other hand, isn’t limited to drugs listed on the schedule of controlled substances. Driving a vehicle after combining a small amount of alcohol and any drug or drugs can result in a Combination-DWAI.

Drug-DWAI and Combination-DWAI charges apply to motorists who are impaired by a drug or drugs even if the motorist has a valid prescription for the drug and has taken it in accordance with that prescription.

Criminal DWAI Penalties

The penalties imposed for Drug-DWAI and Combination-DWAI convictions are similar to those imposed for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction. However, defendants convicted of a DWAI involving drugs aren’t eligible for a conditional license (which affords limited driving privileges) and the ignition interlock device (IID) requirement isn’t applicable.

New York also distinguishes between impaired driving offenses involving drugs and those involving only alcohol. Nevertheless, a drug-related DWAI is considered a prior offense for sentencing purposes regardless of whether the subsequent impaired driving offense involves drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two.

First Conviction

First convictions for Drug-DWAI and Combination-DWAI are misdemeanors. Motorists face a maximum jail sentence of one year and/or a fine of $500 to $1,000. The defendant’s license will be revoked for six months.

Second Conviction

A second conviction within ten years for Drug-DWAI or Combination-DWAI is a class E felony and carries a prison sentence of one to four years and/or a $1,000 to $5,000 fine. The defendant is subject to a license revocation for one year.

Third Conviction

A third conviction within ten years for Drug-DWAI or Combination-DWAI is a class D felony. Convicted motorists face a prison sentence of one to seven years and/or a fine of $2,000 to $10,000. Three impaired driving convictions, refusals (to take a chemical test), or combination of convictions and refusals within a four-year period results in a permanent license revocation.

Additional Penalties

All DWAI offenders are generally subject to the following additional penalties:

  • completion of an alcohol and drug screening, assessment, and treatment program
  • attendance at a victim impact panel (VIP), and
  • payment of a driver responsibility assessment of $250 per year for three years.

In addition to criminal penalties, motorists who refused to take a chemical test are subject to administrative (license-related) penalties. Generally, the license suspension is for one year for refusing to submit to a chemical test. However, the motorist’s license will be revoked for 18 months if the offender had a prior license revocation for refusing to take a test or was convicted of any DWAI or DWI offense within the preceding five years.

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