In a recent opinion from a New York court, the defendant’s request for the court to suppress his incriminating statements was denied. The defendant was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the second degree, driving while intoxicated, operation with a suspended registration, and consumption of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle. On appeal, the defendant argued that his incriminating statements made to the officer at the scene should be suppressed because he made the statements involuntarily. The court disagreed, denying the defendant’s appeal.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, a police officer observed the defendant in his car stopped at a red light one evening. Once the light turned green, the defendant did not drive forward, and other cars began to honk for him to move. The officer approached the vehicle and observed that the defendant appeared to be sleeping in the driver’s seat. Once the officer banged on the window, the defendant awoke and the officer asked to see a license and registration. With bloodshot eyes, the defendant fumbled around in the car to look for his papers. In the meantime, another officer arrived at the scene, asked the defendant a few questions, then issued field sobriety tests. After failing all of the tests, the defendant was placed under arrest.
During the trial, the officer who conducted the field sobriety tests testified that he had received training at the police academy on how to recognize evidence of intoxication. Based on the officer’s training, he had reason to believe the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol. The defendant had a “jerky pursuit”, swayed while trying to maintain balance, refused a breathalyzer, and smelled of alcohol. After the arrest, the officer found one bottle of vodka in the car.
In his appeal, the defendant argued that statements he made during the interaction with the officer should not be used in court because he made the statements involuntarily. The court disagreed, saying an individual’s statements are only made “involuntarily” when that person is both in custody and is being interrogated by an officer. According to the court, the environment around the officer and the defendant at the time of the interaction did not equate to a “custodial” environment. Because a reasonable person would not have considered himself to be in custody during a stop on the side of the road, it was incorrect that the defendant was in custody in this specific instance.
Nor was the defendant being interrogated at the time of the stop, said the court. The officer asked only a few questions for the purpose of figuring out where the defendant had been and if he had been drinking alcohol. Because of the limited scope of these questions, the defendant was neither in custody nor interrogated; thus, his statements were not made involuntarily. Based on this conclusion, the court denied the defendant’s appeal, refusing to suppress the statements made at the scene.
Have You Been Charged with a DUI in New York?
Many defendants in New York who have been charged with driving while under the influence are not aware of the various defenses that might be available to them. At The Law Office of Mark A. Siesel, we stay up to date with New York DWI law so that we can keep a pulse on how to best advocate for your legal needs. To schedule a consultation for you or a loved one, call us at (914) 428-7386.