You should never drive after you drink. Drunk driving is a major problem in the United States, leading to many injuries and deaths each year. Merely being pulled over by an officer and accused of driving drunk, though, doesn’t mean you are guilty of the crime. Understanding your rights after being accused of a DWI is your best chance to walk away from the accusation without derailing your life. To do so, though, you must understand what a DWI is, as well as the penalties and the defenses that are related to the crime.
What is DWI?
Drunk driving is a serious crime. In New York, the crime is referred to as Driving While Intoxicated, and is defined as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher or displaying other signs of intoxication. The crime’s elements are relatively simple – one must operate a motor vehicle and must meet the criteria listed above.
New York has a number of different crimes that are similar to DWI. Driving While Intoxicated is the second most serious of these crimes, just behind Aggravated DWI. Blood alcohol level is all that separates the degrees of crime in New York, making precision in both testing and bringing charges a major priority in the state.
With this said, blood alcohol testing is not required for one to be charged with DWI. It is up to the officer’s discretion to determine if an individual shows signs of intoxication. This means that one can be found guilty of DWI without ever taking a BAC test.
The Penalties for DWI
As with many other states, New York’s drunk driving penalties vary based on a few criteria. In the case of DWI, the most important of these criterion is one’s repeat offender status. While all of the penalties are relatively serious, it’s those reserved for repeat offenders that are the harshest.
A first offense for DWI in New York does not come with mandatory jail time. It does, however, come with a six month minimum license suspension and fines of up to one thousand dollars. First offenders may also be required to attend rehabilitation programs or classes, and may also be required to use an ignition interlock device.
The penalties ramp up significantly on a second offense. It is rare that an individual with a second offense can walk away without some kind of serious punishment. In most cases, individuals will serve up to five days in jail or up to thirty days of community service. The fines may be up to five thousand dollars, and with a minimum of a one year license suspension. Interlock devices are frequently required at this level.
If you offend more than twice, you can almost always expect to serve jail time. This can include up to ten days in jail or up to sixty days of community service. Fines can be up to ten thousand dollars, and license suspension will be for a minimum of six years. Further offenses generally lead to higher penalties.
Outside of the legal penalties, one can expect to see penalties in one’s professional and personal life. Time spent in jail or on community service can lead to the loss of employment. Many individuals with professional licenses, including professional drivers and lawyers, can find themselves losing licenses or certifications. DWI is no laughing matter in New York.
Defenses Against DWI
If you have been charged with a DWI in New York, there are a few defenses to the crime. In both cases, the defense will rest upon how the DWI crime was proven. If you remember, DWI can be proven either through a blood alcohol test or through showing that the accused otherwise appeared intoxicated. As such, defenses generally rest upon showing that the test was improperly administered or that the officer in question improperly used his discretion.
The former defense is simpler than the latter. Those who use this defense must show that either the device used to take the blood alcohol test was faulty or that there were circumstances that caused the device to show a false positive. Most attorneys who work with DWI cases are familiar with how the devices work and what may cause them to trigger improperly.
The latter defense is somewhat more difficult, as it requires the defendant to show that the officer misjudged his or her behavior. This is easier to do when the blood alcohol test comes back within the legal limit. This often requires the help of a very skilled attorney, as he or she must show that the defendant was not guilty of being intoxicated while driving beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you have been accused of a DWI, it’s important that you contact an attorney immediately. This is a very serious crime in New York, one that can have repercussions that last for the rest of your life. Without the help of a lawyer, you might face jail time or a record that can derail your ambitions for the rest of your life. Don’t trust your future to chance – make sure to work with a Bronx DWI lawyer who can help you navigate the system.
Lawyers to invalidate Field Sobriety Tests
If a police officer pulls you over and suspects that you are driving under the influence of alcohol, they’re likely going to ask you to do a field sobriety test. Officers typically conduct these tests before asking you to take a breathalyzer. The most common test is the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST), which is a three-part series of tests. It’s in your best interest to refuse any field sobriety tests, which is your legal right.
The first test is the horizontal gaze nystagmus. When you look from side to side, there’s an involuntary jerking that occurs in your eyes. Alcohol increases the amount of jerking that occurs. For this test, the officer will hold an object and have you keep your eyes on it while they move it. They will check if you aren’t able to follow the object smoothly and if one or both of your eyes are jerking significantly.
The second test is the walk and turn. For this test, the officer will have you walk down a straight line by taking nine heel-to-toe steps. After your ninth step, you’ll need to turn on one foot and take nine heel-to-toe steps back to reach your original starting position. The officer will be looking for any instances of you losing your balance and stepping off the line or swaying, and any gaps larger than about a half-inch between your heel and toe when you step.
The third test is the one-leg stand. The officer will have you stand on one foot, keeping the other approximately 6 inches off the ground. You’ll then need to count to 30. The officer will be looking for any signs of you losing your balance, such as swaying, hopping or raising your arms to catch yourself.
While these are the most common field sobriety tests, many officers will use other tests. These may include counting backwards from a certain number, putting your feet together and tipping your head backwards, counting how many fingers the officer holds up, closing your eyes and touching your nose with one finger, or reciting the alphabet. Contrary to what many people believe, reciting the alphabet backwards is not a field sobriety test, as that’s something that’s difficult for most people to do when unimpaired, making it a poor test choice that wouldn’t hold up in court.
Why is it smart to refuse field sobriety tests? If an officer is asking you to get out of your car to take a field sobriety test, then he is almost always already planning to arrest you for driving under the influence. That means that there’s no way that performing a field sobriety test can help you, but it can hurt you by providing the officer with evidence of impairment.
If an officer asks you to take a field sobriety test, you should politely refuse. Then, it’s up to the officer to decide if he is going to arrest you, request that you take a breathalyzer or let you go. If he requests that you take a breathalyzer, keep in mind that refusing will result in the same penalty as a DUI.
The reason that refusing a field sobriety test is so important is because of probable cause. While an officer can either arrest you or request that you take a breathalyzer even without a field sobriety test, your defense attorney can argue that he didn’t have probable cause to suspect you of driving under the influence. If the judge or jury agrees with your attorney, then the case may get dismissed. However, field sobriety tests don’t require probable cause, because you’re consenting to the tests. Once you consent to the tests, then an officer can use your performance in those tests against you as probable cause for a breathalyzer or an arrest. Since the tests are subjective, the officer can use any mistake as a reason to fail you.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that performing well in a field sobriety test will help you. The only purpose of these tests is to collect more evidence against you and establish probable cause so the officer can make an arrest.
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