When you see the flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, your life can turn upside down in an instant. When you’re facing a drunk driving charge in Nassau County, it can be hard to even know where to begin. You want to know what penalties you’re facing and how to defend yourself in the best way possible.
What is drunk driving?
Nassau County’s term for drunk driving is driving while intoxicated or DWI. It’s per se drunk driving to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of a .08 or more. This is determined based on a blood, breath, urine or saliva test. A breath test is the most common.
There’s another, similar offense that’s called driving while ability impaired. A person can be a drunk driver by being over the legal limit or by driving while alcohol, drugs or a combination of both impairs their ability to drive. The penalties for driving while ability impaired might be similar to DWI or they might be less severe depending on the circumstances of the offense.
If your blood alcohol level is high, you face enhanced charges called aggravated DWI. In cases where there’s a minor age fifteen or younger in the vehicle, your offense is automatically a felony. Repeat DWI offenses within a period of time can also bring charging enhancements. Even a second offense charge is a felony.
Penalties for a conviction
Each penalty for drunk driving carries its own possible set of convictions. At the most basic level, these penalties include a term of jail or prison, fines and a license suspension. You may have to spend time on probation and complete alcohol or drug awareness or treatment programs. If a person suffers financial losses because of your actions, you may have to pay restitution.
Driving while intoxicated penalties
A basic drunk driving offense comes with a possible penalty of up to one year in jail. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you serve a year in jail. However, the judge has the option to give you that much time in jail. You also face a mandatory license suspension of at least six months.
A second or third violation within ten years is a felony. For a second offense, that means up to four years in prison. For a third offense, that means up to seven years in prison. In each case, you face a license suspension of at least one year.
An aggravated drunk driving conviction brings a year’s license suspension for a first offense. The maximum possible jail time is one year. Repeated aggravated drunk drivers can lose their ability to operate a vehicle for eighteen months each time they offend. Possible jail and prison sentences also become progressively more serious with each subsequent offense.
When you face a DWI charge, your Nassau County DWI attorney can help you review the charges against you for possible defenses. The first step is to review each element of the charges and examine the state’s evidence. For example, one thing that the state’s attorney has to prove is that you operated a motor vehicle. You might think that this is basic but that’s not always the case.
If you’re charged under an impaired driving theory, the state has to prove that alcohol or drugs impaired your ability to drive. This isn’t always a simple question, and reasonable minds can differ. The jurors can consider your speech, the way you drove the vehicle and witness testimony about your intoxication. Often, what the state sees as a slam dunk against you might actually not seem like drunk driving at all to a jury of your peers.
Even if you’re charged with DWI that alleges you operated a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of a .08 or .18 or more, you still may have viable defenses. The jury may consider that the person who gave you the chemical test wasn’t qualified to do so. They may conclude that the test result was given in an improper way or that too much time passed between when the driving happened and when the test finally occurs.
An experienced Nassau County DWI lawyer can use their training and experience to guide you to the best possible result in your case. You may have defenses available to you that you may not have considered. To an experienced attorney, these might be great defenses.
Your team of attorneys can demand that the state give them evidence that exists in your case even if the evidence is unfavorable to the state’s case. The attorneys can prepare and file a motion to suppress if the police violated your constitutional rights. If your case has weaknesses, your attorney can offer you honest advice that helps you make the best possible decisions.
If you’re facing drunk driving charges, please contact us. We’re eager to help each client obtain the best possible result in court. No matter your circumstance, we can help. Please contact us today, and we can talk about your case.
DWI/DUI checkpoints or roadblocks have been legal in New York since 1984. They consist of mandatory traffic stops for random vehicles. The roadblocks aren’t connected with any reasonable articulable suspicions of criminal activity. Locations of DWI/DUI checkpoints must be randomly chosen, and they’re only allowed to be temporary, lasting for a few hours. They’re usually set up for use during late night and early morning hours during weekends and holidays.
What happens at a DWI/DUI checkpoint?
When a driver is directed into a DWI/DUI checkpoint, it operates as a short detention as opposed to an arrest. He or she will be asked for their driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance and briefly interviewed to look for signs of the driver being under the influence. Those signs might include:
Drivers who are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs might then be asked to perform certain field sobriety tests. The law doesn’t require a driver to take such tests. Field sobriety tests might also include a portable breath testing device. If a driver consents to field sobriety testing and fails, he or she is taken into custody and charged.
Don’t these roadblocks operate as illegal searches and seizures?
Indeed both the United States Constitution and New York Constitution prohibit unlawful searches and seizures. They’re intended to prevent arbitrary invasions of privacy by governmental officials.
A DWI/DUI roadblock isn’t a traffic stop
The general rule is that the driver of a motor vehicle is only subject to a traffic stop by police if there’s a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the driver had committed or is committing a crime or traffic violation. There’s a legal difference between a traffic stop and a detention at a DWI/DUI roadblock though, and that involves the degree of intrusion of the DUI roadblock.
The balancing act
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that probable cause isn’t required for a simple and brief detention at a DWI/DUI roadblock because the degree of intrusion at the roadblock is minimal and an exception to constitutional unreasonable search and seizure prohibitions. What distinguishes a roadblock from a traffic stop is that there are real limitations on discretion as to whether a roadblock will be set up and how it’s going to be used. The Supreme Court concluded that the dangers presented by drunk drivers by far outweigh the minimal degree of intrusion presented at DWI/DUI checkpoints.
DWI/DUI roadblocks are up to each state
States have been allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court to establish DWI/DUI checkpoints, but they must be used within appropriate guidelines. The National Highway Safety Transportation Board has issued DWI/DUI roadblock guidelines, but each state can issue its own. The legality of these checkpoints has been rejected by 12 states. New York isn’t one of them.
The guidelines governing DWI/DUI roadblocks are strict. If you’re arrested at one of these checkpoints, it might be possible for one of our attorneys to get your charges dismissed if the guidelines weren’t followed. New York DWI/DUI law is very complicated. Our knowledgeable and experienced DWI/DUI attorneys have the specific training and experience that’s required to represent you anywhere in New York City. Our DWI/DUI clients come from every walk of life. It’s not necessarily against the law to consume an alcoholic beverage and operate a motor vehicle, but it’s easy for a police officer to make a DWI/DUI arrest. We’ll evaluate every available option for you, advise you on them, and provide you with the highest quality DWI/DUI defense that you can get.
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