Drunk Driving Laws in New York in 2023: What Is Legal Blood Alcohol Level?

Drink and drive laws in New York

A driver is considered highly intoxicated to the point of committing a criminal offense in New York if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% (80 ml of alcohol per 100 ml of blood) or higher.

You may be charged with DWI or driving while intoxicated if you are driving with a BAC of 0.08% or more. If you are driving with a BAC level of 0.05% but less than 0.07% or proven to have impairment with your driving skills, you can be charged with DWAI or driving while ability impaired by alcohol.

One to two standard alcoholic drinks are usually sufficient to reach or exceed the BAC limit of 0.08%. However, because BAC varies depending on factors such as weight and gender, this figure should only be used as a rough approximation.

This post aims to spread awareness of impaired driving laws in New York. This website does not advocate drinking and driving.

Alcohol is involved in more than 30% of vehicle collisions in New York State. The proportion of traffic fatalities in New York City related to DWI has risen dramatically, reflecting troubling pandemic trends involving alcohol consumption: 43 traffic fatalities were directly linked to DWI in 2021, a 60% increase over the previous 3-year average of 27 deaths.

New York has been working to reduce crashes, fatalities, and injuries caused by drunk or drugged driving. Before driving, you should have your blood alcohol level checked. You can use an alcohol breathalyzer to ensure your BAC is within the legal limits in New York.

Drink driving should be avoided to the greatest extent possible. Instead, take a cab, Uber, or a designated driver service.

We recommend visiting New York’s official website for the most up-to-date information on DWI driving laws and regulations.

Legal Alcohol Limit When Driving in New York

Alcohol slows your reaction time, impairs your ability to see clearly, alters your judgment of speed and distance, and frequently makes you less inhibited and reckless.

These things can happen even if you don’t appear or feel intoxicated. Alcohol consumption signs may start long before you become drunk or legally impaired, and they can begin with the first sip.

Alcohol enters your bloodstream in 30 to 2 hours. Your breathing may slow, and you may have difficulty thinking clearly.

Although the state’s legal BAC limit is 0.08%, you should be aware that everyone’s body reacts differently to alcohol.

Some of the following factors may have an impact on your BAC level:

  • weight,
  • gender,
  • levels of anxiety and exhaustion,
  • level of alcohol consumption,
  • an empty stomach, and
  • use of prescription drugs.

Some people may pass out after consuming a few bottles or glasses of alcoholic beverages. While some may appear normal at first glance, they may already be unable to operate a vehicle. As a result, it is critical to determine your BAC before driving.

A BAC calculator and chart can help you know the quantity of alcohol you can drink before driving. However, because everyone reacts differently to alcohol, these tools may not be effective for everyone.

Using a certified alcohol breathalyzer to determine your BAC is the most accurate method.

Punishments for Drinking and Driving in New York

A person’s blood alcohol level determines the severity of alcohol impairment. An individual with a BAC between 0.010% and 0.029% appears normal. However, as BAC levels rise, the signs of alcohol-related impairment become more apparent.

DUI laws differ from state to state. Check your blood alcohol level before driving to avoid consequences.

A DWI conviction can have legal and financial consequences. The DWI penalties in New York are outlined below for your reference.

Penalties for DWI and DWAI Offense in New York


Drivers with 0.08% BAC or higher or other evidence of intoxication can be charged with DWI. Drivers of commercial motor vehicles can face DWI charges if they are caught operating a vehicle with 0.04% BAC or other evidence of intoxication.


Drivers with more than 0.05% but less than 0.07% BAC or other evidence of impairment can be charged with DWAI or driving while ability impaired with alcohol.

The following penalties may apply for DWI and DWAI offenders:

Offense Jail Time Fines License Suspension
First Offense Maximum of one (1) year in jail $500 to $1,000 Minimum of six (6) months suspension of license
Second Offense Maximum of four (4) years imprisonment $1,000 to $5,000 At least one (1) year of license suspension
Third Offense Up to seven (7) years imprisonment $2,000 to $10,000 Minimum of one (1) year suspension of license

Aggravated DWI

Drivers with 0.18% BAC or higher can be charged with aggravated DWI. 

The following punishment may apply for aggravated DWI offenders:

Offense Jail Time Fines License Suspension
First Offense Up to one (1) year imprisonment $1,000 to $2,500 At least one (1) year suspension
Second Offense (in 10 years) Maximum of four (4) years in jail $1,000 to $5,000 Minimum of 18 months of license revocation
Third Offense (in 10 years) Up to seven (7) years imprisonment $2,000 to $10,000 Minimum of 18 months of license revocation

Zero Tolerance Law

A driver under the age of 21 who drives with a blood alcohol content of 0.02% to 0.07% violates the Zero Tolerance Law.

When Can You Drink and Drive in New York?

A person’s blood alcohol level can be affected by gender and other factors. According to research, men and women have different BACs.

Men have significantly higher levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) than women. The ADH enzymes are in charge of alcohol metabolism. As a result, men digest alcohol faster than women.

If you’re not sure how much alcohol you can consume before driving in New York, the information below may be helpful.

Although studies support the information below, you should be aware that it may not be helpful or applicable to everyone because alcohol affects different people in different ways.

How Many Bottles of Beers Can You Drink and Drive in New York?

Drink beer and drive in New York

BAC charts show that a lighter person can have a higher BAC.

After consuming a 12-ounce (350 ml) beer, a male weighing 180 pounds (82 kilograms) can have a BAC of 0.02%.

A woman of equal weight who consumes the same amount of beer, on the other hand, may have a BAC of 0.03%.

If you need to drive later, limit your beer consumption to one to two bottles.

How Many Glasses of Wine Can You Consume and Drive in New York?

A standard 5 oz (142 ml) glass of wine contains 12% ABV.

Like the preceding example, a 180-pound man can have a BAC of 0.02% after consuming one glass of wine. In contrast, a woman of the same weight and alcohol consumption could have a BAC of up to 0.03%.

One to two glasses of wine are sufficient if you plan to drive later.

How Much Whiskey or Vodka Can You Drink and Drive in New York?

Forty percent alcohol content is found in distilled alcoholic beverages like vodka and whiskey.

If you cannot avoid drinking, t is best to limit yourself to one to two shots of whiskey or vodka.

Sticking to DWI Laws in New York

There are several myths about the effects of alcohol on driving. Everyone on the road should be aware of the risks of DUI and take all precautions to avoid it.

Impaired driving is risky. You may lose control of yourself and your vehicle if you are intoxicated.

Don’t assume your blood alcohol level and driving abilities are reliable if you’ve only had a few alcoholic beverages. If you’re intoxicated, you should take public transportation instead of driving.

If you intend to drive after drinking, keep an eye on your blood alcohol level and ensure it is below New York’s legal limit. Your blood alcohol content can be precisely measured using a reliable alcohol breathalyzer.

It is best to check the official website of New York’s Department of Vehicles regularly for the most up-to-date DWI laws.

About the author

Ashley Cresswell

Ashley Cresswell is a former phlebotomist with a passion for road safety. During her time as a phlebotomist, Ashley administered over 1000 blood alcohol tests to impaired drivers and was shocked to discover that many of them were simply uninformed about the legal limits for driving under the influence. As a result, Ashley conducted extensive research on scientific studies and local laws to bring drivers a comprehensive resource on drink and drive limits from around the world.