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.
Continue reading ›

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.

Continue reading ›

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.

Continue reading ›

No one is happy about approaching a DWI checkpoint. However, for drivers who have had a few drinks, or may have smoked marijuana earlier in the day, this can be a horrifying experience. Part of what makes DWI checkpoints alarming is the unknown surrounding what officers can ask you, what you are allowed to say, and whether they are going to ask you to take a blood or breath test. But are New York DWI checkpoints really legal?

Given the constitutional protections everyone enjoys to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the legality of DWI checkpoints often comes up. However, DWI checkpoints are legal, or, better said, they may be legal if they are properly carried out. A recent New York DWI case involving a defendant who was arrested at a checkpoint gave the court the opportunity to elaborate on DWI checkpoint law in New York.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant approached a DWI checkpoint in Westchester County. As the defendant neared the checkpoint, he almost hit one of the officers on duty. The officer noticed that the defendant’s car smelled like alcohol and, when asked, the defendant explained he was coming from a party where he was drinking. The defendant agreed to take field sobriety tests, after which he was arrested for DWI and subsequently convicted.

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.

Continue reading ›

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.

Continue reading ›

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.

New York DWI law identifies multiple levels of offenses involving motor vehicles and alcohol or drugs. Most first-time offenses are classified as traffic infractions, which are generally subject to lesser penalties than criminal offenses. If an individual has one or more prior convictions during the previous ten years, however, New York may treat a subsequent offense as a felony. Penalties could include several years’ imprisonment, substantial fines, and a lengthy period of license suspension. A felony DWI conviction in New York may also require completion of a drug or alcohol addiction program, along with classes offered by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

The New York DWI statute divides the offense into five offenses, based on the substance involved and the extent of impairment:
– Driving while ability impaired (DWAI): Operating a motor vehicle while impaired due to alcohol consumption. This could involve blood alcohol content (BAC) below the “legal limit” of 0.08 percent, but usually greater than 0.05 percent.
– Driving while intoxicated (DWI): Driving “while in an intoxicated condition,” or with BAC of 0.08 percent or more. For commercial vehicle drivers, the limit is 0.04 percent.
– Aggravated DWI: Driving with BAC of 0.18 percent or higher.
– Driving while ability impaired by drugs (DWAID)
– Driving while ability impaired by the combined influence of drugs or alcohol (DWAI-Combination)

Most offenses are classified as traffic infractions or misdemeanors. Certain offenses, however, are classified as felonies. A second conviction for DWI, aggravated DWI, DWAID, or DWAI-Combination within a period of ten years is an E felony. This is punishable by up to four years in jail, a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, and driver’s license suspension for a minimum of one year. For a second aggravated DWI conviction, the minimum period of license suspension is eighteen months.
Continue reading ›

New York bans the use of “portable electronic devices” while driving, which includes writing or reading text messages. Amendments to New York traffic laws several years ago increased the number of “points” attached to the offense. A driver accrues a certain number of points for different traffic infractions. Accruing too many points results in license suspension. Police in Westchester County and around the state are on the lookout for texting while driving offenses. The number of convictions spiked shortly after the new law took effect. While the number of annual tickets has fallen since then, enforcement has remained steady. Police often use texting violations to identify other infractions, such as lack of seat belts. New York drivers should be aware of these laws and the potential consequences.

Section 1225-D of the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law prohibits texting while driving. A fine for a first offense may range from $50 to $100. A second offense within eighteen months of the first may result in a fine of $50 to $250. For a third offense within that time frame, the maximum fine increases to $450. In 2013, a new law took effect that increased penalties for texting while driving. Shortly afterwards, the governor announced a $1 million initiative to catch distracted drivers with “undercover vehicles.”

Under the Driver Violation Point System, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) assigns points to drivers for specified traffic infractions. If a driver accrues eleven or more points in an eighteen-month period, their license could be suspended. They may request a hearing before the DMV if they claim that they were not driving when an offense occurred. They cannot, however, challenge a finding of guilt before the DMV. That can only happen in the courts. The DMV increased the number of points associated with a texting while driving conviction in 2012. It now adds five points to one’s license. Most traffic offenses add three or four points.
Continue reading ›