If you’re pulled over for speeding – or any other reason – and the officer suspects you of driving under the influence, you’ll be asked to take a number of tests. Among these is a breath screen test (the results of which are not admissible in court). There are various other “field sobriety” tests, as well. These include fairly straightforward physical exercises performed under the watchful eye of the officer, who looks for ‘clues’ (a term of art meaning ‘mistakes’). If the prescribed number of clues is found then you’re deemed to have failed that portion of the test. All of these roadside tests taken cumulatively can support an officer’s finding that there is probable cause to arrest you.
Once you’re back at the station the more important process begins. You will be asked to take a ‘breathalyzer’ test. The results of this breath test are admissible in evidence if the case goes to trial. And if you refuse to take the test, you should – at the very least – expect to lose your license for a year, because “any person who operates a motor vehicle in [New York State] shall be deemed to have given consent to a chemical test of…breath, blood, urine or saliva, for the purpose of determining the alcoholic and/or drug content of the blood…” (per New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1194(2)(a)).
So you have a hard choice to make: give up your license for a year, or give potentially powerful evidence against yourself. In fact, there are many variables that go into a calculation like this: an accident involving serious injury; the presence of a child in the car; statutory plea bargaining restrictions based on blood alcohol content; the local DA’s plea bargaining policies based on blood alcohol content (and note that some DAs refuse to plea bargain at all if you refuse the chemical breath test).
Another issue, if and when the breathalyzer test is done, is whether it was done right: Was the machine functioning properly? Was the operator working it properly? And a related question is whether there is something unusual about your body chemistry that causes even a properly functioning breathalyzer to give an inaccurate reading (it can happen).
Each case is different and a person accused of DWI should absolutely consult experienced legal counsel about the facts of the case and the laws that apply.
Our firm has handled hundreds of DWI cases and we would be pleased to take the time to look at the facts of your case and to advise you as to whether a favorable plea bargain is likely to be offered, as well as other options that you may have. Call us for a free initial consultation – (518) 583-4600.