This summer, a driver who was traveling at three times the legal limit was pulled over during a holiday weekend on I-287 in Harrison, New York. Although he was pulled over because of a traffic violation, the police quickly figured out he was intoxicated. After wholly failing field sobriety tests, he was required to take a chemical test at the precinct. Once the police brought him into custody, he was tested. His blood alcohol content was 0.27%. Prosecutors charged him with aggravated driving while intoxicated (DWI).

Blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.27% is exceptionally high — more than three times the legal limit. While prosecutors can charge you for being over the legal limit if you operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher, you can be charged with aggravated DWI if you drive with a BAC of 0.18% or higher. In this case, the chemical test showed the driver had a far higher blood alcohol content than the minimum used to charge aggravated DWI.

You should be aware that the penalties for aggravated DWI are harsh. If you are convicted of aggravated DWI, you could be jailed for one year and fined $1000-$2500. But jail time and fines aren’t the only potential consequences. Your driver’s license could be revoked for at least one year. You will be ordered to participate in a MADD victim impact panel. Additionally, the court will order substance abuse treatment through, among others, Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC), a state-run agency. Initially, TASC will ask questions to determine your treatment needs in connection with drug and alcohol use. You will then be referred to a program to be provided treatment.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York DUI case requiring the court to assess the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress. In a pre-trial motion, the court suppressed evidence obtained by the arresting officer, finding that the officer lacked justification to stop the defendant. However, on appeal, that ruling was reversed.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer received a call reporting that the driver of a white Nissan was smoking marijuana while driving. The caller provided the license plate of the vehicle as well as its direction of travel. Oddly enough, the officer who received the call was actually driving right behind the white Nissan. The officer observed as the car’s wheels traveled over the curb and momentarily onto the sidewalk as it made a right turn.

The officer pulled over the defendant, who was driving the Nissan. Upon the officer’s approach, she noticed the smell of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. The defendant was arrested for driving while intoxicated.

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Recently, a New York appellate court addressed a criminal defendant’s motion to suppress evidence based on an unlawful search and seizure. According to the record, a Lieutenant observed a vehicle with its headlights and engine on, parked between gas pumps. The officer testified that he noticed the vehicle because he thought it was unusual for the car to be at the location while the gas station was closed. When he passed the vehicle, he noticed that the defendant was slumped forward over the steering wheel. He approached the defendant and banged on his window to check if he was okay. When the officer did not get a response, he opened the door and shook the defendant. During this time, the officer detected the smell of an alcoholic beverage and arrested the defendant for DWI.

The defendant pleaded guilty and then appealed the court’s judgment based on a constitutional violation. The defendant argued that the Lieutenant did not have probable cause to open the car’s door and lean inside. He asserted that these actions amounted to an unlawful search.

Under New York law, police officers may approach a stationary vehicle to request information in situations where there is “objective, credible reason” for doing so. The law does not provide a clear definition of what constitutes an “objective, credible reason.” Determining whether an action meets this standard requires the court to balance the government’s interest against an individual’s right to security and privacy. Courts often cite public policy and safety when evaluating the lawfulness of an officer’s conduct. However, if police officers approach with an accusatory mindset, they need to justify their approach with suspicion of wrongdoing.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides individuals from unreasonable searches or seizures. New York criminal defendants who believe that they were the subject of an unreasonable search or seizure should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies. This amendment requires law enforcement officials to have probable cause before stopping or searching an individual. The law defines probable cause as a reasonable belief that a crime is underway or has taken place.

The laws surrounding probable cause are often vague and allow law enforcement a great deal of discretion in determining whether a stop is appropriate. While law enforcement maintains this discretionary power, they must still abide by the law. After an officer stops a defendant, they maintain a limited right to search the vehicle and seize evidence. Officers may seize items that are in plain sight without a warrant. Defendants subject to an unlawful stop may file a motion to suppress evidence obtained from the detention.

In cases involving DWI arrests, police may use evidence of a driver’s erratic driving and speeding as probable cause to stop the driver. Further, evidence of failed sobriety field tests and breathalyzer results may be probable cause for the driver’s arrest. For instance, recently, a New York driver was charged with DWI, making an unsafe lane change, and driving below the minimum speed. Amongst other things, the driver moved to suppress all of her statements and the results of a breathalyzer test. She argued that the officer did not have probable cause to arrest her.

After being convicted of a New York DWI offense, the court will often sentence the defendant to a period of probation. When the court puts someone on probation, it may add certain conditions to the defendant’s probation. If a defendant fails to comply with these conditions, it may constitute a violation of their probation, after which the court can then re-sentence the defendant.

In a recent decision issued by a state appellate court, the issue of whether the defendant’s actions violated the terms of his probation was at issue. According to the court, the defendant was convicted of a drunk driving offense and placed on probation. As a condition of his probation, the court ordered the defendant to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle he planned on driving. The court also included a condition that the defendant was to allow probation officers to enter and inspect his home.

Evidently, the defendant’s probation officer visited the defendant’s home, asking to come inside to inspect the location. The defendant did not allow the probation officer to come inside. It was also discovered that the defendant had not installed an ignition interlock device on his ex-wife’s car, which he regularly used. The defendant was found in violation of his probation, the trial judge revoked probation and sentenced the defendant to a term of incarceration.

When someone is arrested for a New York DWI offense, there are often two simultaneous proceedings. The first is the criminal trial, which can result in a conviction for driving while intoxicated. The facing criminal prosecutions are entitled to heightened constitutional protections, and these offenses must be supported by evidence establishing the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The second proceeding is administrative in nature and deals with the suspension of the driver’s operating license. Under the New York prompt suspension law, the government suspends the driving privileges of anyone who is arrested for a DWI offense pending the outcome of the case. However, because the suspension of driving privileges impacts a person’s rights, in 1996, New York courts agreed that there must be a hearing before someone’s license is suspended. This is referred to as a Pringle hearing, named after the case in which the court outlined the need for the hearing.

In a recent case, a court was presented with the question of whether a defendant’s driver’s license could be suspended after he was arrested for drunk driving on his own property. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was driving on a road called “Palisade Place,” which was on his own property. Palisade place was a gravel road that is not maintained by the city; the defendant is solely responsible for the road’s maintenance. However, Palisade Place provides access to the defendant’s home, as well as one other residence. At the time of his arrest, the defendant’s blood-alcohol content was .24—three times the legal limit.

When the State, such as New York, brings charges against someone, the prosecutor overseeing the case will typically do whatever they can to make obtaining a conviction easier. Among the many tactics prosecutors use to do this is to join cases together so they are tried in a single proceeding. While prosecutors cannot join two cases together solely because it makes a defendant look bad, that is essentially what they are doing. Generally, cases that stem from separate arrests, or were allegedly committed on different days are initiated as separate trials as a default. Under certain circumstances, the prosecution can then file a motion to consolidate the two cases. It is almost always against a defendant’s interest to consolidate cases, provided they are planning on fighting the cases. A recent appellate decision in a New York DWI case illustrates the standards courts use when assessing whether the joinder of two cases is appropriate.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, on September 4, 2011, a person was run over on the Hudson Parkway. Video footage of the accident showed that it was a dark Acura that hit the victim. The defendant was the owner of the Acura. Months later, in January 2012, police pulled the defendant over for going 85mph in a 50mph zone while weaving in and out of traffic. The defendant was arrested for a New York DWI offense.

The two cases were joined, and the officer who arrested the defendant for the DWI offense was permitted to testify that he recognized the defendant from the videos taken the night of the September 2011 accident.
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New York, like many other states, has a DWI implied consent law which presumes that anyone driving in the state implicitly consents to take a chemical test when asked by police officers. While this sounds cut-and-dry, there are several nuances to the New York implied consent law that all motorists must understand, especially those facing DWI charges.

When police request that you take a sobriety test, the law assumes that you will comply. However, absent a warrant and extenuating circumstances, police officers cannot force you to provide a blood or breath sample. While it may sound like a good idea to decline an officer’s request to take a DWI test, doing so comes with its own set of consequences.

For example, a first-time DWI refusal in New York carries administrative penalties including:

  • A one-year license suspension;
  • A civil penalty of $500; and
  • A $250 “driver responsibility assessment” of $250 per year, for three years.

Additionally, the fact that you refused to provide a test sample can be used against you in a DWI case. For example, consider a recent opinion issued by a state appellate court in a New York DWI case.

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After a New York DWI arrest, chances are you are not thinking about a guilty plea, and for good reason. You can contest many DWI cases, either due to insufficient evidence of intoxication or the arresting officer’s questionable actions leading up to your arrest. However, in some DWI cases, police officers followed all the rules and the evidence against you is overwhelming. In these situations, when the prosecutor approaches you with an offer, you may start to consider it, rather than risk the uncertainty of taking the case to trial.

Just because a prosecutor makes you an offer, either for a lesser offense, or an agreed-upon sentence, does not mean they have doubts about the strength of their case. Prosecutors will often cull through their cases, trying to figure out which ones are the most worthy of their limited time. If they see a case with strong evidence in their favor, they make you an offer so they don’t need to spend the time to prepare the case.

However, before you accept an offer requiring you plead guilty to a New York DWI offense, it is critical that you consider all the implications of accepting the offer. Generally, once you enter a guilty plea, you have a very limited time to ask the judge to withdraw your plea. If you miss that window, the conviction is final, and you are extremely limited in your options. For example, consider a recent DWI case decided by a state appellate court.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York drunk driving case involving the death of a motorcyclist and his passenger. The case required the court to review the evidence to determine if the defendant’s conviction for criminally vehicular manslaughter was supported by the evidence. Ultimately, the court concluded that it was, and affirmed the defendant’s conviction and sentence of one to three years incarceration.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was driving with three passengers in the car. As the defendant made a left turn, he hit a motorcycle traveling in the opposite direction. Both the driver of the motorcycle and the passenger died as a result of the collision.

Evidence presented at trial indicated that the defendant had THC in his system at the time of the accident. The defendant was convicted, and appealed, arguing that the prosecution failed to prove that he was “impaired” by marijuana at the time of the accident. The defendant also argued that, even if he was impaired, his impairment was not the cause of the victims’ deaths.

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