New York City DWAI Drugs Charges

The crime of Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs, or DWAI-Drugs, is a serious misdemeanor offense that can result in not only the loss of your driver’s license and the impounding of your vehicle but also substantial fines and incarceration. Falling under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192(4), a charge of DWAI-Drugs can be brought against any driver who operates a motor vehicle within the State of New York while under the influence of a controlled substance listed by section 3306 of the New York Public Health Law. That the substance at issue must be specifically listed by this statute stands in contrast to many other states’ DWAI-Drug laws that proscribe driving while impaired by any substance. In New York – including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Long Island and Westchester – to secure a conviction for a drugged driving offense, the prosecution must prove that the drug ingested was a scheduled substance under state law.

Unfortunately, securing that conviction is not always so difficult as section 3306 of the New York Public Health Law is extensive, covering not just recreational drugs like cocaine or marijuana but widely used – and abused – prescription drugs, like Xanax and Vicodin. The fact that the drug you consumed may have been legally prescribed by your physician is ultimately no defense to a charge of DWAI-Drugs in New York. In these very serious cases, it makes sense to hire the New York City DWAI-Drugs attorneys to protect your rights.

Relevant Provisions of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law for the Offense of DWAI-Drugs

“Driving while ability impaired by drugs. No person shall operate a motor vehicle while the person’s ability to operate such a motor vehicle is impaired by the use of a drug…”

VTL § 1192.4

“The term ‘drug’ when used in this chapter, means and includes any substance listed in New York’s Public Health Law § 3306.”

VTL § 114-a

DWAI-Drugs, How the Prosecution Proves a Drugged Driving Case

There are four main elements to this offense, all of which prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to secure your conviction for Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs. They are, in order:

  1. The defendant ingested a drug;
  2. The drug ingested by the defendant is one proscribed by Public Health Law § 3306;
  3. After or while ingesting the drug, the defendant operated a motor vehicle; and
  4. While operating the motor vehicle, the defendant’s ability to operate the motor vehicle was impaired by the ingestion of the drug.

People v. Kahn, 160 Misc. 2d 594 (Nassau Co. Dist. Ct. 1994)

The first three elements are often not contested. What usually decides guilt or innocence in these cases is whether the prosecution can prove element 4) – whether any observed driving impairment was caused by the intoxicating or impairment-inducing side effects of a controlled substance. The reason why top New York City DWAI-Drugs defense lawyers bring all their resources to bear in contesting this issue boils down to one of the defining features of a DWAI-Drugs case: the lack of universally acknowledged standards associating drug intake and impairment of motor skills. Unlike alcohol, where there is a recognized, even codified, correlation between the amount of alcohol consumed and driving ability (measured by blood alcohol content, or BAC), the effects of certain drugs and the amount consumed by an individual user can be, and often are, subjective. This is an argument – especially if presented by top New York City DWI / DWAI-Drugs attorneys – that can be particularly strong at trial defending charges of drugged driving by the state.

More DWAI-Drugs Articles and Scheduling Your First Consultation

For more information on New York’s DWAI-Drug offense, additional passages on the penalties that may be imposed in the event of a conviction and the emerging use of Drug Recognition Experts to prove the element of causation in these cases, can be found here.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or been in an accident where drug or alcohol impairment has been suspected, please don’t hesitate in seeking legal help. Our team of New York City DWI /DWAI-Drug defense lawyers has accumulated decades of experience handling these kinds of cases in New York, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Westchester and Long Island. Speak to one of the attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman at (212) 581-1001 and begin the process of defending your New York DWAI-Drugs case today.

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