New York's Drugged Driving Law

Learn about the laws and penalties for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) in New York.

In New York, you can get a DWAI (driving while ability impaired) if you operate a vehicle while impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Some states have “zero tolerance” drugged driving laws that make it illegal to drive with any amount of drugs in your system. But in New York, you must actually be impaired by the drugs you’ve ingested to get a drug-DWAI.

For purposes of New York’s DWAI law, you’re “impaired” if—as the result of consuming drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol—your ability to operate a vehicle as a “reasonable and prudent” driver has been impaired “to any extent.”

And it’s possible to be arrested for DWAI in New York without actually driving. A person “operates” a vehicle within the meaning of New York’s DWAI law by “intentionally [doing] any act or [making] use of any mechanical or electrical agency which alone or in sequence will set in motion the motive power of that vehicle.” (People v. Alamo, 34 N.Y.2d 453 (1974).) So, for instance, you can be arrested for DWAI in New York for just getting in your car and starting the engine. To make an arrest, police don’t have to wait for you to move your vehicle.

What drugs are prohibited?

New York’s drugged driving law prohibits driving while impaired by any of the “drugs” or “controlled substances” that are listed in Section 3306 of the New York Public Health Law. Section 3306 contains an exhaustive list of drugs and controlled substances that includes numerous opiates, hallucinogens, depressants, and stimulants.

It’s not an acceptable defense to a drugged driving charge to claim that the driver was legally entitled to use the drug or controlled substance. In other words, a doctor’s prescription won’t shield a driver from a DWAI, and that includes medical marijuana users.

What happens if a driver is convicted of drug impaired driving in New York?

For the most part, the consequences and penalties for a first-offense drug-DWAI are the same as those for a first-offense DWI (driving while intoxicated). For drivers convicted of a first-offense drug-DWAI, there’s no minimum jail time, but it’s possible to receive a sentence of up to one year. Fines for a first-offense drug-DWAI range from $500 to $1000. And a first drug-DWAI carries a mandatory six-month license suspension. However, whereas all DWI offenders must install ignition interlock devices (IIDs) on their vehicles, IIDs aren’t required for DWAI offenders.

New York law differentiates between drug-related impaired driving offenses and those involving only alcohol. However, a conviction for drugged driving will be considered a prior offense for purposes of calculating punishment regardless of whether a subsequent offense is due to drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two. Read more about New York’s DUI laws.

Do New York drivers have to submit to drug testing?

Yes, there is an implied consent rule for saliva, blood, and urine testing for drugged drivers. The refusal to take the test can be admitted into evidence against the driver.

Last Updated: 3/30/2016

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