In New York, a DUI is technically referred to as a DWI or “driving while intoxicated.” In order to be considered driving while intoxicated, a driver must have a blood alcohol content level (BAC level) above 0.08. The 0.08 reading is provided through the police officer’s use of a breathalyzer test or a blood test. An officer can also charge a driver with DWI based on their own observation of the driver. For instance, if they pull someone over that smells of alcohol, has glassy eyes or was swerving in the road, then the police officer can bring a DWI charge against that person, even in the absence of a chemical test. If a driver refuses to take a breathalyzer test or any other chemical tests, then they will be arrested and charged with DWI.
What are the top Misconceptions About Being Arrested for a DWI?
In some instances, people tend to think that a DWI charge is relatively minor. But in New York (and particularly Westchester County), that is not the case at all. The district attorney’s offices in New York take these charges very seriously and often pursue maximum penalties for those charged with DWI.
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make During a DWI Arrest?
The most common mistake that we see is similar to that which is seen in general criminal matters: people giving statements voluntarily to the police. It is not uncommon for drivers to offer information that hurts their case. We often see in the police officer’s paperwork that a driver admitted to certain actions, such as having been at a party and consuming six beers. Clearly, making that type of statement is going to hurt the case. It happens more often than you would think.
How Would You Advise Someone who Wants to Plead Guilty to DWI Charges?
A DWI charge in New York is a misdemeanor. It is not a simple traffic violation. A plea to a DWI in New York constitutes a plea to a crime, and that crime stays on your record for the rest of your life; it never gets expunged. There are severe consequences to having a criminal record, particularly with DWIs. There are significant consequences to entering a plea without the advice of counsel. A guilty plea to a DWI not only results in a criminal conviction, but also triggers other obligations and consequences, such as the drinking and driving programs, license suspension and a breath test machine (ignition interlock) installed in your car. So, these are not cases where an individual would want to just enter a plea of guilty and be on their way.
What Typically Happens During a Traffic Stop Resulting in DWI Charges?
When someone is pulled over for DWI, it’s usually starts due to a traffic violation (speeding, swerving, making a lane change without using a blinker, etc.). When the officer comes up to the car, they may become suspicious that the driver is intoxicated. It may have to do with their appearance, bloodshot or glassy eyes, or the smell of alcohol or drugs coming from the vehicle. If they see any of that (or if they see cans or bottles of vodka in the vehicle), then that is clearly going to indicate that there may have been some drinking going on. Once they are suspicious of DWI, they will usually get the driver out of the car and have them complete a number of field sobriety tests.
The officer may ask the driver to walk a straight line, rehearse the alphabet or simultaneously touch their nose and count backwards. In New York, the officer will oftentimes give a breath test on the road, which is not considered a breathalyzer or chemical test. The breath test that is given on the side of the road gives a reading about whether or not there is any alcohol on the driver’s breath. Once the driver has been given that test and has done the field sobriety tests, the officer will decide whether or not to place the driver under arrest.
Once a driver is under arrest, they will be brought to the precinct. At that point, they will try to conduct the chemical test, usually the breathalyzer. They will give the driver the option to refuse the chemical tests. They will usually give that option three times, and they’ll note the number of times that they offered the chemical tests to the driver. If the driver consents to the breathalyzer and it shows a BAC level over 0.08, then they will be placed under arrest for DWI. In New York, if the BAC level is 0.16, then the driver will also be charged with aggravated DWI, which carries heavier penalties and consequences. So, that’s basically what happens from the time that a driver is stopped to the time that they are arrested.