New York Court Finds Field Sobriety Tests Were Improperly Conducted, but Defendant’s Arrest Lawful

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.

While the court does not elaborate on the errors made by the officer, both the prosecution and defense agree that the police officer did not perform the field sobriety tests properly. The defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress the statements she made to the officer as well as the results of the breath test. More specifically, the defendant argued that once the results of the field sobriety tests were disregarded, there was no probable cause to arrest her. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion. In doing so, the court found that the officer was credible but failed to follow the proper procedures to conduct the field sobriety testing. The prosecution appealed

The court rejected the defendant’s argument on appeal, finding that the lower court should have denied the defendant’s motion to suppress. The court explained that, while field sobriety tests can confirm an officer’s suspicions that a driver is intoxicated, they are not required in every DWI arrest. Here, the court noted that the officer also relied on the observations that the defendant was driving erratically. While none of the erratic driving was caught on the video, the court deferred to the lower court’s finding that the officer was credible. Thus, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision, and the defendant will now stand trial on the DWI charges.

Have You Been Arrested for a New York Drunk Driving Crime?

If you were recently arrested for a New York DWI offense, reach out to the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we have decades of experience representing clients facing all types of traffic-related offenses, including drunk driving charges. We aggressively defend our clients’ rights at every stage of the proceeding, creating compelling defenses to even the toughest cases. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with one of our New York criminal defense attorneys, give us a call at 877-377-8666 today.

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