Driving while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol (DWI) is a common but serious criminal charge. If you are convicted of DWI in New York City, you could face jail time, license suspension, costly fines, and other penalties – even if it is your first drunk driving offense. If you have been charged with drunk or drugged driving in New York City, it’s important to ensure that you are represented by a skilled New York DWI lawyer who understands the intricacies of local DWI laws. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, various legal defenses may be able to beat your DWI charges, or even lead to a dismissal of the case altogether.
Fighting a DUI Charge: Traffic Stops Made without Probable Cause
Thousands of people are arrested for intoxicated driving in New York City every year. However, just because DWI accusations are common doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly. On the contrary, a DWI conviction can burden you with expensive, inconvenient penalties that disrupt your daily life and can damage your professional reputation. If you or a loved one has been charged with drunk driving, it’s crucial to be proactive and seek legal help from a defense attorney with the knowledge and experience necessary to fight the charges against you. The question is, what sorts of defense strategies may be employed in drunk driving cases?
There are several angles from which a DWI accusation may be dissected and challenged. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your situation, your attorney may be able to challenge the validity of test results, and/or the very legality of the traffic stop that led to your arrest.
With regard to the latter, police officers must have probable cause to make a traffic stop. That means a police officer must make a stop based on tangible facts and observations that would indicate the occurrence of a crime: in this scenario, driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
It is legal for an officer to pull you over because you are displaying signs of impairment by driving erratically, such as weaving across lanes, drifting within your lane, or changing speed frequently without a valid reason. It is not legal for an officer to pull you over because of your skin color, which is racial profiling.
Unfortunately, discrimination and racial profiling may be pervasive issues when it comes to traffic stops and arrests. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “A higher percentage of black drivers (13%) than white (10%) and Hispanic (10%) drivers were stopped by police during 2011.” Additionally, “A lower percentage of white drivers stopped by police in 2011 were searched (2%) than black (6%) or Hispanic (7%) drivers.”
If you were stopped without probable cause, a DWI defense attorney may be able to successfully challenge the admissibility of any evidence obtained in the stop – for example, the results of a breathalyzer test. In fact, breathalyzer and other test results should be analyzed even if the stop was conducted lawfully, for reasons explained in the following section.
Challenging the Accuracy of Breathalyzers and Field Sobriety Tests
There are several ways a police officer can test a suspected drunk driver’s level of impairment: conducting field sobriety tests, which gauge the driver’s coordination and ability to perform basic physical tasks, and conducting chemical tests, meaning blood, breath, or urine tests, which measure the level of alcohol present in the driver’s system.
Far from being infallible, chemical tests and field sobriety tests actually have a fairly high rate of error, and their results should be carefully scrutinized by a defense attorney. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the standardized field sobriety tests in use today – the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which tracks side-to-side eye movements – may have a margin of error as great as 19%, which leaves considerable room for mistakes and misinterpretations.
Your performance on field sobriety tests can also be impacted by factors like injuries, medical conditions, and even the shoes you were wearing at the time of the test – and that’s assuming the officer actually administered the test correctly, another point which can be challenged. Your attorney may be able to obtain a video recording of the test, which can be used to point out flaws, where present, in the test’s administration or interpretation. Additionally, improper handling or storage of your urine sample, blood sample, or breath test results can also interfere with the accuracy of test readings.
Contact a New York DWI Lawyer if You Were Arrested for Intoxicated Driving
New York DUI lawyer Seth Koslow handles DWI charges involving alcohol, marijuana, and controlled substances, including methamphetamine, cocaine, and prescription drugs such as Ambien, Xanax, Valium, and OxyContin. He has extensive experience representing defendants in a range of misdemeanor and felony DWI cases, including DWI resulting in death or injury, DWI with high BAC, repeat offenses, and related offenses such as open container violations, driving while ability-impaired (DWAI), and drug possession or other drug crimes.
If you or one of your family members was arrested for drunk driving in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, or Staten Island, you need immediate assistance. Contact the law offices of Seth Koslow at (347) 561-0025 for a free and confidential legal consultation.