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New York DWAI Suspensions


Many New York DUI cases are reduced to “driving while ability is impaired” (DWAI), in violation of New York VTL § 1192. This statute simply 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.” This statute is completely silent to the degree of alcohol impairment necessary to sustain a conviction. It prohibits driving a motor vehicle if the operator’s ability is impaired to any degree by having consumed intoxicating liquor.

Unlike the crime of DUI, a New York DWAI charge is considered a non-criminal traffic infraction which is not considered a criminal conviction and which carries no possibility of incarceration for more than 15 days.

Getting a Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol charge reduced to DWAI might seem like a very attractive option. However, this option may not be so attractive to Massachusetts residents or license holders who have the misfortune of being charged with DUI in the state of New York.

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles can penalize drivers for out of state motor vehicle convictions if the out of state offense is “substantially similar” to the Massachusetts offense. In the case of Bresten v. Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liab. Policies & Bonds, 76 Mass. App. Ct. 263, 266 (2010), the Appeals Court ruled that the crime of “driving while ability impaired” (DWAI) in Colorado was substantially similar to the crime of DUI in Massachusetts, so that the Registry could penalize the Massachusetts license holder for the Colorado DUI conviction. The court reached this conclusion because “both statutes address the same level of impairment in imposing liability.”

Likewise, in the case of Callahan v. Board of Appeal, 90 Mass. App. Ct. 196 (2016), the Appeals Court ruled that a New York DWAI was similar enough to the Massachusetts offense of Operating Under the Influence (OUI), such that the Registry could suspend a Massachusetts license based on the NY DWAI.

Therefore, the Registry will suspend your Massachusetts license for 1 year of you are convicted of a first offense DWAI in New York, for 2 years if you have a prior DUI, and for 8 years if you have 2 prior DUI convictions. The Registry will impose a 10-year revocation if you have a DWAI with 3 prior DUI convictions, regardless of where or when the prior DUI offenses occurred.

The good news is that there is relief available for these license suspensions. In some cases, the length of the DUI suspension can be significantly reduced and in other cases, hardship licenses are available. Contact Attorney Brian Simoneau for more information.

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