Seeing the flash of police lights in your rearview mirror can be a tense situation. If you are accused of drunk driving, the situation becomes even more serious, particularly if you are innocent. Due to this, it is important to have a basic understanding of the different types of alcohol-related driving offenses in New York.

The basic type of drunk driving offense is driving while intoxicated, or DWI. To be charged with DWI, a driver’s blood alcohol content level (BAC) must be 0.08 or higher, or 0.04 or higher for drivers of commercial vehicles. However, even in the absence of BAC tests, one may be charged with DWI if police allege there is other evidence that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. DWI is elevated to aggravated DWI if a person’s BAC is measured at 0.18 or more.

Did you know that you could still be charged with a crime if your BAC is less than 0.08? One can be charged with driving while ability impaired by alcohol (DWAI) if their BAC is less than 0.07 but over 0.05, or if there is other evidence that they are under the influence.

Finally, there are zero tolerance laws in New York. For drivers under the age of 21, a BAC level ranging from 0.02 to 0.07 is in violation of the state’s zero tolerance laws.

In addition, a driver who declines to take a breath, blood or urine test during a traffic stop or at the police station could be charged with chemical test refusal. While this is not the same as a DWI, a person could still face fines and license revocation.

As this shows, there are multiple ways a person can be charged with drunk driving in New York. It is important for all drivers to understand state laws so they can exercise their right to fight against false drunk driving charges if need be.

Source:, Penalties for alcohol or drug-related violations