New York DUI vs. DWI: Understanding the Key Differences

As Hamilton Clarke, LLP, a leading law firm specializing in criminal defense, we believe in empowering our clients with knowledge. One area that often confuses individuals is the distinction between DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charges in New York. These two terms might seem interchangeable, but they carry distinct legal implications. This blog post highlights the key differences between New York DUI and DWI, helping you understand the legal consequences and potential defenses associated with each.

Defining DUI and DWI

Understanding the definitions of DUI and DWI is crucial to grasp their differences. In New York, DUI refers to driving under the influence of drugs, whether illegal substances or prescription medications, which impair a person's ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. On the other hand, DWI involves driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08%. Both offenses pose serious legal consequences, but they are legally distinct.


While DUI and DWI convictions lead to severe penalties, they differ in potential consequences. A first-time DUI offense may result in a fine, license suspension, and participation in an alcohol education program. For a DWI conviction, penalties often include fines, license revocation, and possibly jail time, particularly for aggravated DWI offenses.

Criminal Charges

DUI and DWI are categorized under different New York Vehicle and Traffic Law sections. DUI charges typically fall under Section 1192(4), while DWI charges fall under Section 1192(3). The distinction in code numbers reflects the legal variance between the two offenses.

BAC Levels

One of the critical differentiators between DUI and DWI is the role of blood alcohol concentration. As mentioned earlier, DWI charges involve driving with a BAC of over 0.08%. However, in some cases, a person could be charged with DWI even with a lower BAC if there is evidence of impairment. There is no strict BAC limit for DUI charges, and the focus is primarily on the driver's ability to operate the vehicle safely while under the influence of drugs.

DUI Defenses

Defending against DUI charges often revolves around proving that the alleged impairment did not significantly affect the driver's ability to operate the vehicle. This may involve challenging the accuracy of drug tests, questioning the arresting officer's observations, or providing medical evidence that shows the defendant can safely use the prescribed medication.

DWI Defenses

DWI defenses typically focus on disputing the accuracy of BAC tests, challenging the validity of the traffic stop, or questioning the administration of field sobriety tests. In some cases, a skilled attorney may argue that the driver's BAC was below the legal limit when driving but rose above it during the period between the stop and the administration of the breathalyzer test.

Aggravated Offenses

DUI and DWI charges can be elevated to aggravated offenses, leading to more severe penalties. Aggravating factors may include excessive BAC levels, prior DUI or DWI convictions, the presence of minors in the vehicle, or causing accidents resulting in injuries or fatalities.

As Hamilton Clarke, LLP, we are dedicated to helping our clients navigate the complexities of New York DUI and DWI laws. Understanding the differences between these offenses is vital in mounting an effective defense and protecting your rights. Our team of legal experts is here to provide comprehensive guidance and advocate for your best interests throughout the legal process. Remember, a strong defense can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.

Contact Hamilton Clarke, LLP today if you or someone you know is facing DUI or DWI charges in New York! 

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