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.