In most states, the legal blood-alcohol limit is .08. Most drivers believe that if they register below this level, they cannot be charged with an offense. This is not necessarily the case in New York and Colorado, as these states have enacted Driving While Ability Impaired laws( DWAI).
These laws allow police to arrest motorists who are below the legal limit, yet have an impaired ability to drive because alcohol has been used in conjunction with drugs.
In Colorado, drivers are subject to being charged with DWAI if they are impaired in the slightest manner by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol. If an operator is unable to “exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle”, he or she may be charged. If an individual registers more than .05 but less than .08 on a breathalyzer test, it is a rebuttable presumption that he or she is ability impaired. A rebuttable presumption is one that is assumed to be true under most circumstances, but can be rebutted in a court of law.
New York law provides for two separate offenses when it comes to DWAI. The first is DWAI alcohol. Drivers who are charged with this offense register between .05 and .08 on a field breathalyzer test. A DWAI drug offense occurs whenever a driver‘s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by the use of drugs. These drugs may be prescription or non-prescription, legal or illegal. Those who are charged with a DWAI drug offense in New York face misdemeanor charges, and can be charged fines of up to $2,000, a suspension of their driver’s license, and a mark against their driving record for up to ten years.
Unlike a DWI, a charge of DWAI is normally considered a traffic violation. Even so, it can result in fines and the loss of a driver’s license for a period of time. In New York, first-time offenders face fines of up to $500 and a 90-day suspension of driving privileges. In Colorado, the suspension of a driver’s license is restricted to people who are under 21 at the time of the offense. Minors under 21 will have their driver’s license suspended for one year. Repeat offenders who are over 21 will also have their license revoked for a 12-month period.
Those who are charged with a DWI may sometimes be able to plead to the lesser charge of DWAI. This can happen whenever the accuracy of a field breathalyzer test is in question or whenever the results were borderline. A plea bargain is typically only given for first-time offenders who meet these criteria.
A DWAI charge in Colorado or a DWAI drug charge in New York requires the prosecution to prove drugs were the cause of the ability impairment. The state has the burden of proof in these instances. People who have been charged with a DWAI offense should seek the advice of an DUI attorney to ensure their rights are not violated.