New York Court Excludes Breath-Test Results from DUI Trial Based on Police Officer’s Incorrect Warning

New York DWI lawyers have been following a landmark ruling issued earlier this month, when a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York DUI case which determined whether the lower courts properly excluded the results of a breath test indicating that the defendant’s blood-alcohol content was above the legal limit. The court ultimately determined that the warnings provided to the defendant were not correct, and thus the court could not say that he voluntarily consented to the test.  This was a critical decision from New York’s highest Court, the Court  of Appeals, which interpreted the extent of New York’s “two hour rule” for chemical tests in DWI cases.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was pulled over and arrested on various charges, including driving under the influence of alcohol. About two hours after his arrest, a police officer asked the defendant if he would consent to a breath test. The defendant refused the test, and the officer read the defendant refusal warnings.

The refusal warnings provided by the officer stated that the defendant’s license would be suspended or revoked, regardless of whether he was ultimately convicted of driving under the influence. The police officer also explained to the defendant that the fact that he refused the breath test could be used against him at trial. The defendant then agreed to take the test, which indicated that his blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit.

At trial, the defendant argued that evidence of the breath test should be excluded from evidence because it was not legally obtained. Specifically, the defendant claimed that, since more than two hours had elapsed since his arrest, the police officer was incorrect that his license would be suspended. Additionally, the defendant claimed that the officer’s statement that his refusal could be used against him was coercive. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion, and the prosecution appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence of the breath test. First, the court noted that the law is clear in that a breath test conducted more than two hours after an arrest can only be conducted (and admitted into evidence) if the defendant voluntarily consents to the test. Otherwise, the test results cannot be admitted. Here, the evidence was uncontested that the test occurred more than two hours after the arrest.

The prosecution claimed that, although the officer was not correct in his warning to the defendant, the defendant still consented to the test. However, the court rejected this argument. The court explained that the defendant’s consent was only obtained based on the officer’s incorrect statement that if the defendant refused the test, his refusal could be used against him at trial.

The court explained that, in order to admit the test results, the prosecution had to prove that the defendant’s consent was voluntary. Here, the court held that since the police officer provided legally inaccurate warnings, the defendant’s consent was not truly voluntary.

Have You Been Arrested for Driving Under the Influence?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a New York DUI crime, you should consult with one of the dedicated New York DUI defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent those charged with all types of New York crimes, including both felony and misdemeanor offenses. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, call 877-377-8666 today.

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