In all 50 states in America, drunk driving constitutes a crime. In order to drive under the influence or drive while impaired, all states agree that your blood alcohol content (BAC) must be at .08% or higher. However, many organizations and states believe that driving becomes impaired well before your BAC reaches .08%. So, in some states, for instance New York, a charge exists that enforces a punishment if a driver drives with a BAC of .05-.07. This charge is the driving while ability impaired (DWAI) charge. Organizations such as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have recently recommended that states lower the BAC limit from .08 to .05 in order to keep American roads safe.
BAC in America
At this time, all states in America consider a BAC level of .08 to indicate impairment from alcohol to the point that he or she is unable to drive. However, many people claim that ability impairment begins at a much lower blood alcohol content level. The NTSB claims that drivers have difficulty with visual functions such as depth perception at .05 BAC. By a BAC of .07%, cognitive abilities get impaired. For this reason, many other countries consider a BAC of .05 to constitute drunk driving. The United States is one of only a few countries that still considers a BAC level of .08 the point at which judgment becomes impaired and you shouldn’t drive. However, studies show that this limit is too high.
The risk of getting in an accident if you are driving with a BAC of .05 increases by 39%. If you are driving with a BAC of .08, the risk of getting in an accident increases by over 100%. Many people feel that lowering the BAC limit will reduce the number of alcohol-related deaths on the road. This has been the case in other countries that have lowered their BAC limit, such as Australia. When the government dropped the BAC level to .05 from .08, traffic-related fatalities dropped by 5-18%. Those who oppose the potential drop in BAC limit feel that a lower BAC limit will not deter drunk drivers from driving. Furthermore, some feel that this move would punish people who drink responsibly and are not engaging in reckless behavior.
Whether the BAC limit gets lowered in the United States remains to be seen, however, the NTSB estimates that if all 50 states change their BAC limit to .05, an estimated 1,000 lives can be saved in this country per year. However, the NTSB has no authority to change the law, and can only provide suggestions for state laws. Each individual state has the right to decide if they want to accept the NTBS’s recommendation or keep the BAC level limit at .08%.
New York is one such state that has a DWAI law. As leading New York DWI Attorney Harold Dee explains, “DWAI is not a crime but a traffic infraction so [it] is a common plea down when the [BAC] is less than a .16 in Westchester, [or less than] .13 in Manhattan, Rockland, and Orange Counties.”
The consequences for a DWI and a DWAI are also different. Both charges can carry a fine, a jail sentence, and a license suspension, however the DWI consequences are greater than the DWAI ones, due largely to the fact that you are over the legal limit when you commit a DWI. For example, a first offense fine for a DWAI is $300-$500, while a first offense fine for a DWI is $500-$1,000.
Connecticut Drivers and DWAI
The state of Connecticut does not take action against drivers who have a BAC of less than .08. This courtesy is extended to Connecticut drivers in the state of New York. If pulled over in New York, and your BAC is between .05 and .07, the police will take no action against you, since you are a licensed driver in a sister state that does not charge for DWAIs. Attorney Dee also points out that, “Similarly, [New York State] traffic offenses are not listed on a Connecticut driver’s abstract.”
If you are Connecticut driver, you do not have to worry about getting a DWAI in Connecticut because Connecticut does not have a DWAI charge. If a police officer does issue a DWAI to you while you are driving in New York, a New York DUI lawyer can help you fight the charge. In the state of New York, it is also possible to plea a DWI charge down to a DWAI, depending on the circumstances of your case.