Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) Law and Legal Definition

Driving While Ability Impaired or DWAI is a drunk driving charge which is a criminal offense in most states. Generally, it is a lesser charge than driving while intoxicated (DWI). A person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by the consumption of alcohol when that person’s consumption of alcohol has actually impaired, to any extent, the physical and mental abilities which such person is expected to possess in order to operate a vehicle as a reasonable and prudent driver. [People v. Cruz, 48 N.Y.2d 419, 422 (N.Y. 1979)].DWI charges typically depend on the results of a test for blood-alcohol content (BAC) performed by police on a device called a breathalyzer.

For example, Driving while ability impaired by alcohol is prohibited by New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192 (1). NY CLS Veh & Tr § 1192 (1) states that: “No person shall operate a motor vehicle while the person's ability to operate such motor vehicle is impaired by the consumption of alcohol”. In New York DWAI is a lower-level "drunk driving" offense even though the penalties are harsh. Driving While Ability Impaired is a non-criminal traffic infraction while Driving While Intoxicated is an unclassified misdemeanor.