Articles Posted in DWI Cases

Everyone knows that driving a car under the influence of drugs or alcohol is against the law; however, fewer people are aware that operating a boat while intoxicated carries similar criminal penalties. Under state law, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Violations of the state’s boating while intoxicated statute provides for escalating penalties for each subsequent conviction, including fines and potentially jail time.

In a recent case, the court considered an appeal filed by a defendant who was convicted of negligently criminal homicide and boating while intoxicated charges.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the case arose after a 16-year-old girl was killed after hitting her head on a bridge while riding on a boat that was owned by the defendant. The accident occurred in the early morning hours. Evidently, the defendant was aboard the boat, and allowed his 17-year-old co-defendant to drive. The night before, the defendant, the co-defendant, and the victim, were all at the defendant’s home drinking and smoking marijuana. Once the defendant got behind the wheel, he started driving erratically. Witnesses explained that the boat was traveling at high speeds, swerving across the water immediately before the accident. There was no testimony that the defendant tried to regain control of the boat, or that he told the co-defendant to stop driving in a dangerous manner.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York DWI case involving a defendant’s challenge to the evidence used to convict him at trial. Specifically, the defendant argued that the police officer violated his constitutional rights when the officer approached his car, knocked on the window, demanded the defendant exit the vehicle, and then conduct field sobriety tests.

After reviewing each of the defendant’s contentions, the appellate court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer was on routine patrol just after midnight when he encountered a running pickup truck parked on the shoulder, with its lights on. The officer pulled behind the truck and waited for five minutes before calling in a possible disabled vehicle. The officer then approached the truck, finding the defendant asleep in the driver’s seat.

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Police officers are generally able to pull over a vehicle any time they observe a vehicle commit a traffic or equipment violation. However, when an officer initiates a traffic stop, the violation they observed may not be the true reason they are effectuating the stop. In some cases, officers profile drivers, using a minor violation to conduct a traffic stop in hopes of finding something more damning. That seems to be exactly what happened in a recent New York DWI case.

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer observed a car parked in an area marked as a bus stop. The officer asked the driver to move, and the driver responded he was waiting for someone. As the officer walked back to his patrol vehicle, the man drove off. As he was driving away, the officer saw that the car’s left brake light was out. The officer pulled the driver over, and eventually arrested him for driving while intoxicated.

The defendant filed a pre-trial motion to suppress, arguing that he had two working brake lights and that the stop was unconstitutional. The defendant relied on the officer’s own testimony that, while the left brake light was out, the vehicle was equipped with a center brake light. The trial court found the defendant’s position persuasive and granted the motion. The prosecution appealed.