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Articles Posted in DWI/DWAI

An appellate court recently reversed a defendant’s motion to suppress all evidence from a New York DWI stop. According to the record, a police officer testified that he received a report that people were smoking marijuana in a white sedan. The informants provided the officer with a license plate number and an approximate location. Coincidentally, the officer was driving right behind the vehicle in question. As the officer was following the vehicle, he noticed the car’s tires go up a curb while the driver attempted to make a right turn. Another police officer testified that she arrived at the scene while the tires went up the curb. Both officers testified that seconds after the tires went up the curb, the original officer turned on the police car’s emergency lights and stopped the sedan. During the stop, the officers detected the smell of marijuana and subsequently arrested the driver.

The accused motioned the court to suppress all evidence from the stop because the vehicle stop was illegal. The City Court issued an order finding that the People did not meet their burden of establishing the lawfulness of the stop. In response, the People appealed, contending that the stop was lawful.

Under New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws § 1225-a, no person shall drive on or across a sidewalk. An exception exists if the driver must drive on the sidewalk if it is reasonable and necessary. In those situations, the driver must not exceed five miles per hour or interfere with the safety and passage of pedestrians.

A New York court recently issued an opinion addressing several questions stemming from a defendant’s New York driving while intoxicated charges. Amongst several issues, the court addressed whether New York’s fellow officer rule applied to the facts of the accused’s case. According to the record, a police sergeant received a call from an off-duty police officer about a reckless driver. The sergeant did not testify as to what information he received that led him to believe that the driver’s actions were reckless. Nonetheless, the sergeant followed the driver and observed him make two turns without signaling. At that point, the officer turned on his lights and tried to stop the driver. After stopping the defendant, the sergeant contacted a fellow officer to continue the investigation.

At issue is whether the officer was justified in asking the defendant’s “second-level questions.” The fellow officer rules allow a police officer to make an arrest even without personal knowledge to establish probable cause. The law would permit this if the officer acted “upon the direction or communication with “a “fellow officer” who has sufficient information to constitute probable cause. In these cases, the officers are permitted to ask “level one” questions. These questions are non-threatening inquiries about one’s identity, address, or destination.

Courts reviewing motions to suppress stemming from the fellow officer rule must engage in the two-pronged Aguilar-Spinelli test. This test requires courts to assess whether the information the officer acted upon is reliable. Next, the test evaluates whether the informing party possessed an “adequate basis of knowledge” for providing the information. While information received from a law enforcement officer is presumptively reliable, the People must still satisfy the second part of the test.

There are significant ramifications after one is charged or convicted of a New York DWI criminal offense. These cases can impact a person’s rights in many ways, including, fines, surcharges, loss of driving privileges, probation and jail and pose serious reputational, financial, and familial issues. Individuals who face these charges should consult with an attorney to discuss their rights and defenses.

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL), provides that individuals stopped by police for suspicion of driving while ability impaired by drugs (DWAI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) will be asked to submit to a chemical test to determine the content of alcohol in their blood, breath or urine. These tests typically involve both a field breath test and a chemical breath test at a police station. The law allows motorists to refuse these tests, however, if they are arrested and refuse a properly requested chemical test their driver’s license will be immediately suspended and if after a hearing an Administrative law Judge finds that a properly requested breath test was refused, DMV will revoke the driver’s license for a minimum of 1 year.  Drivers who have been stopped or accused of DWI often struggle to decide if they should comply with a test, and if so, which one.

New York state law breath analysis tools measure an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) and must be approved by the state’s Department of Health. The breathalyzer an officer uses must be on the approved list of devices, however, these devices like any other instrument may be prone to defects.

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York Drinking and Driving case discussing the standard courts use to determine whether a police officer’s actions were justified in stopping a parked car. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer’s stop of the defendant was valid, affirming the defendant’s convictions.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer was on routine patrol around 1:45 in the morning when he saw a vehicle parked in a gas station parking lot. The officer thought it was odd, considering the gas station was closed and pulled up to investigate.

As the officer passed the vehicle, he saw the defendant slumped over the steering wheel. The officer exited his car to “make sure the driver was alright.” Initially, the officer banged on the window, but the defendant remained still. The officer then opened the unlocked car door and shook the defendant until he came to. At this point, the officer could smell alcohol on the defendant’s breath, leading to the defendant’s arrest.

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As DWI lawyers, we have to be concerned about the numerous potential collateral consequences to a DWI arrest.  The day non-U.S. citizens receive their Permanent Resident Card—more popularly known as a green card—is probably one they will never forget.  Being green card holders will finally allow them to enjoy benefits they’ve never had before, including sponsoring immediate family members to stay in the U.S. with them and traveling more smoothly in and out of the country.  However, green card holders can jeopardize their lawful permanent resident (LPR) status if they commit what’s referred to as “crimes of moral turpitude,” which can include Driving While Intoxicated or DWI.

For an American citizen, the consequences of a DWI conviction can be harsh enough. The potential for jail time, probation, heavy fines, driver’s license suspension or revocation, and ignition interlock installation are among the penalties that await DUI offenders.  For a green card holder, the outcome of a DWI can be so much worse.

Possible Deportation

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York DWI case involving a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that was obtained during what she claimed was an illegal arrest. Ultimately, the court found that the officer did not conduct the field sobriety tests correctly, but still had enough evidence to arrest the defendant for driving while intoxicated. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer observed the defendant driving erratically. Among other things, the officer claimed to see the defendant driving 20 to 25 miles per hour in a 45 mile-per-hour zone. After a few moments, the officer turned on his dashcam, pulled over the defendant, and administered field sobriety tests. None of the defendant’s erratic driving was caught on the video footage.

The officer conducted field sobriety tests, determining that the defendant was intoxicated, and arrested her for DWI. The defendant then made an inculpatory statement and agreed to a breath test, which indicated she was intoxicated.

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Recently, a New York appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York DWI case discussing the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during what could be characterized as a “wellness check.” Ultimately, the court held that the officer’s actions were justified, and denied the defendant’s motion.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, an officer was on routine patrol when he saw a truck parked along the side of the road with no one inside. The officer pulled up behind the vehicle, noticing that it was running. The officer then exited his car, approached the driver’s side door, and saw that the defendant was hunched over the wheel, asleep.

The officer tapped on the window, and after about 30 seconds, the defendant came to. The officer asked him out of the car several times, and on the third time, the defendant complied. During this time, the officer noticed that the defendant seemed intoxicated. Specifically, the defendant had “bloodshot, watery eyes, dilated eyes, slurred speech and a strong odor of alcoholic beverages emanating from the vehicle.”

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In most cases, driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges come after police notice a motorist driving erratically or otherwise violating a New York traffic law.  In other cases a person may be stopped at a DWI checkpoint.  After law enforcement pulls over a driver, they may notice signs of intoxication, such as the smell of an alcoholic beverage, flushed face, or impaired coordination or speech. After an arrest for a New York DWI, the defendant may argue a motion to suppress evidence of their intoxication based on an illegal stop. This often occurs in situations when a police officer approaches a stopped vehicle.

Under New York law, police officers have a broad authority to approach individuals and make inquiries about their identity or destination. However, when an officer’s inquiry becomes accusatory, extended, or focuses on a person’s potential criminality, the officer is no longer asking for information. Once an officer asks more directed questions, in a way that would lead the person to believe that they are under suspicion of wrongdoing, the officer’s inquiry must be supported by a founded suspicion that criminality is afoot.

In some cases, an arrest for DWI precipitates a stop for an unrelated traffic violation. For instance, an appeals court recently issued an opinion stemming from a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during a traffic stop. In that case, the officer approached the defendant’s vehicle after noticing that the vehicle was illegally parked at a bus stop. The defendant stated that he was waiting for someone and moved his vehicle. The officer then noticed that the defendant’s rear brake light was out. He stopped the vehicle and arrested the defendant for DWI.

As New York DWI lawyers, we are following a recent state appellate court  opinion on a New York DWI case discussing the procedures law enforcement must use to legally conduct a DWI checkpoint. Ultimately, the court concluded that the checkpoint used by law enforcement leading to the defendant’s arrest was legal, and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Drunk driving checkpoints are used throughout New York to catch intoxicated drivers. However, historically, these checkpoints have been used to target specific groups of motorists. Thus, courts have held that all DWI checkpoints must comply with certain guidelines; otherwise, they are unconstitutional.  It is important for attorneys that handle New York DWI’s to know the specific requirements for operating a constitutional checkpoint when conducting suppression hearings.

The Facts of the Case

The relevant facts in the case are straightforward: the defendant was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint and eventually arrested for driving while intoxicated. Evidently, there were signs immediately before the checkpoint entrance, indicating the presence of law enforcement. All law enforcement were in marked cars with the vehicle’s emergency lights on, and all officers were wearing their uniforms. Additionally, the officers operating the checkpoint would stop every car that passed by. However, officers would not ask motorists for their license and proof of insurance, as not to impede the flow of traffic any more than necessary.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York DWI case discussing the denial of the defendant’s pretrial motion to suppress. The case required the court to determine if the lower court properly denied the defendant’s motion based on the arresting officers’ credibility. Finding that there was no reason to conclude the officer’s testimony at trial was not credible, the court upheld the denial of the defendant’s motion.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s brief opinion, a police officer pulled the defendant over based on his observations that she had her high-beams on and failed to use her turn signal. During the traffic stop, the officer thought the defendant was intoxicated. Ultimately, he arrested the defendant for Driving While Intoxicated.

In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that any evidence of her intoxication should be suppressed based on the fact that the officer’s decision to stop her was unsupported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause. At the motion, the police officer cited two reasons for stopping the defendant’s car. First, she improperly used her high-beams, and second, she failed to use her turn signal.

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