The difference between a New York criminal conviction for Driving While Intoxicated and a non-criminal conviction for the violation of Driving While Ability Impaired lies in the extent of the driver’s impairment. In fact, where a defendant is charged with Common Law Driving While Intoxicated, it is a common strategy for an attorney to ask the jury to find the defendant not guilty of Common Law Driving While Intoxicated (VTL 1192(3)) but guilty of the lesser included offense of Driving While Ability Impaired (VTL 1192(1)). Driving While Ability Impaired is a non-criminal traffic infraction while Driving While Intoxicated is an unclassified misdemeanor.
"Impairment" means that the defendant, by voluntarily consuming alcohol or drugs, 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. “Intoxication”, however, is defined in New York as a greater degree of impairment which is reached when the driver has voluntarily consumed alcohol to the extent that he or she is incapable of employing the physical and mental abilities which he or she is expected to possess in order to operate a motor vehicle as a reasonable and prudent driver.
Therefore, one is impaired if their ability is impaired “to any extent” while to be intoxicated one must be totally incapable of operating the vehicle. It would appear that proving intoxication under this totally incapacitated standard would be difficult. However, impairment would be much easier to prove because all that is required is the slightest impairment – i.e., impairment “to any extent”.
If you have been charged in New York with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), call Tilem & Campbell toll free at 1-877-377-8666 for a free telephone consultation. Our attorneys are experienced with all aspects of DWI defense.