It’s a Friday night, and you’ve been out with the guys watching the game at your favorite bar a few miles from home. You’ve had a few drinks, the game is over, and you are on your way home. Suddenly, the police pull you over, and you are asked if you’ve been drinking. When the officer smells alcohol on your breath, he asks you to do the Field Sobriety test (I will write about this in an upcoming post), consisting of standing on one foot, walking in a straight line for 9 steps and then reversing on the same line, and touching your finger to your nose. The officer then requests that you take a breath test. One of the most common questions DWI lawyers get asked is: “Should I refuse?”
There is no easy answer to this question, but there are several things to keep in mind. First, if you refuse, there will be an automatic 12 month revocation of your driver’s license, unless you win at the DMV Refusal Hearing, conducted by a DMV administrative judge in which the odds are definitely against you. Considering that if you do take the test, and you get a DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired), your license is only suspended for 90 days, or if you are convicted of a DWI, your license is revoked for only 6 months, by refusing the chemical test you are either doubling or quadrupling the time you will be without your driver’s license. On a second refusal, your license is revoked for 18 months!
Second, by refusing you are subject to a $500 fine for the first refusal, and a $750 fine for a refusal on a second DWI charge.
Third, if you are found to have refused at the administrative hearing at the New York DMV, you are not eligible to obtain your conditional license. This is critical, as the conditional license allows you to drive to and from work, for emergency medical treatment, to school, or to pick up your children at day care.
For clients with a CDL, driving a tractor-trailer or other commercial vehicle, a refusal is a very unwise move. By refusing a chemical test, the following will happen: Your license is now revoked for 18 months, and you are assessed a $500.00 penalty. The refusal is on your record forever, so that even if you have a refusal 20 years later driving a private vehicle, it will still have a huge impact on your CDL, because if you have a second refusal, your commercial driver’s license is permanently revoked!
Generally speaking, unless a felony is likely to be charged, or someone has been badly injured or killed as the result of the DWI, refusals are a very risky business indeed.
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