New York Court Finds Breath Test Inadmissible in DWI Case

Recently, a New York appellate court issued an opinion in a DWI case involving a defendant who failed a sobriety test after a routine traffic stop. This case is an example of a court granting the defendant’s motion to suppress a breath test because of concerns of reliability while denying the defendant’s motion to suppress statements made voluntarily by the defendant.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, two officers pulled over the defendant while the defendant was driving his vehicle on a parkway. The officers allege that they observed the defendant’s vehicle swerving over into another lane multiple times and followed the vehicle for at least one-quarter of a mile before stopping the car. The defendant was in the driver’s seat while someone else was in the passenger seat. The officers observed the defendant with bloodshot and watery eyes and an odor of alcohol coming from the defendant’s breath. After an officer asked the defendant for his license, the defendant instead only produced a New Jersey identification card that was not a license. The officer asked if the defendant had anything to drink tonight, and the defendant responded, “not too much.” The officer directed the defendant to exit the vehicle and observed the defendant sagging side to side. The Portable Breath Test (PBT) was administered twice to the defendant, showing that the defendant blew over the legal limit. The officer observed the defendant for only two minutes before administering the test and did not look into the defendant’s mouth first.

While being transported to the Intoxicated Driver Testing Unit, the officer asked about the defendant’s license, to which the defendant replied it was coming in the mail. After a long pause, the defendant stated that it “looks like I’m going to lose my license now.” The officers eventually gave the defendant his Miranda warnings and eventually concluded that the defendant had been driving while impaired by alcohol.

The defendant moved to suppress the statements he made on the grounds that they were made involuntarily and to also suppress the sobriety tests conducted, including the PBT tests.

The Decision

The court concluded that the routine traffic stop was permissible because of the officers’ observation of the defendant failing to maintain his traffic lane while operating the vehicle. Also, the officers had reasonable suspicion of intoxication and thus properly directed the defendant to exit the vehicle. Additionally, the officers’ observations of bloodshot and watery eyes and sagging while walking allowed the officers to properly conclude intoxication while driving.

Furthermore, the court determined that the defendant voluntarily made the statement “not too much” in response to the officers asking during the traffic stop if he had been drinking alcohol. The court explained that it was not in violation of the defendant’s fourth amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures for the officers to ask the defendant if he had any alcoholic beverages even if the officers did not give Miranda warnings before doing so. Additionally, the court explained that the defendant’s statement that he was about to lose his license now was made after a long pause, not a direct response to the officer’s questioning, and thus the statements would not be suppressed.

Finally, the court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the PBT results because the officers only observed the defendant for 2 minutes before administering the test, which is not enough time to ensure the reliability of the test. As a result, the court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the PBT results while denying the defendant’s motion to suppress his statements made.

Have You Been Arrested in New York for a DWI Offense?

If you have been arrested for a New York DWI offense, contact the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel for immediate assistance. Attorney Siesel is experienced in effectively representing clients in matters including DWI offenses, criminal cases, and traffic violations. He has extensive experience successfully litigating motions to suppress, which can keep harmful evidence out of trial. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Siesel today, call 914-224-3086.

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