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New York’s Highest Court Determines that Two Hour Rule For Breath Tests is not Applicable to Revocation Hearing

In a recent New York DWI  case coming out of the New York Court of Appeals, New York’s highest Court, the defendant lost his appeal challenging the court’s previous decision to take away his license. Previously, the defendant had refused a chemical test when an officer pulled him over for a DWI. Because of this refusal, the New York State Department of Motor vehicles (NY DMV) revoked his license. The defendant argued on appeal that he had every right to refuse the officer’s request to test him because more than 2 hours had lapsed between the arrest and when he refused the test, but the court disagreed and affirmed the original decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was arrested for driving while intoxicated in 2016. About three hours after police officers arrested the defendant, the officers warned the defendant that there would be consequences if he decided not to consent to a chemical test. Despite this warning, the defendant refused the test.

In New York, drivers charged with a DWI are subject to something called the two-hour rule, which says that a driver who appears drunk must be tested either within two hours of the time of the arrest or the time of a positive breath screening test. Because of this law, the defendant’s refusal to submit to a test resulted in another hearing, during which the court had to decide whether or not to take away his license.

At the defendant’s hearing, the judge took away his license based on his refusal to submit to the test. The defendant appealed, and the higher court concluded that even though the defendant’s refusal occurred slightly more than two hours after his arrest, his refusal to submit to the test could still be used against him.

The defendant appealed again, hoping to find a way not to suffer additional consequences due to his failure to submit to the chemical test.

The Decision

The defendant argued on appeal that by not allowing him to refuse a chemical test at the time of arrest, the court was denying him important substantive rights. According to the defendant, he should be free to choose whether or not to be tested at any given time.

The court disagreed, noting that the two-hour rule is based on existing science that tells us how fast alcohol is processed in the bloodstream. Because it is important for the State to receive accurate information as to how intoxicated a person might be, the value of these tests is high. Several hours after alcoholic consumption, a person’s test results are less accurate, so officers have to act quickly to secure these chemical test results.

However, the Court ruled that the DMV refusal hearing is limited by statute to 4 issues.  The four issues are: (1) Whether there was reasonable cause to believe the driver had violated section 1192 of the NYS Vehicle; (2) whether the motorist’s arrest was lawful; (3) whether the motorist was given a clear warning about the consequences of refusing; and (4) whether the motorist refused the chemical test.   The Court thus reasoned that the timing of the test was not one of the statutory factors that should be considered.  The court then affirmed the lower court’s original decision.

Have You Been Arrested for a DUI in New York?

If you or a loved one is facing consequences after a DUI in New York, call our team at Tilem Associates, P.C. We are dedicated to providing you with the best representation possible so that you rest easy knowing your case is in good hands. For a free and confidential consultation, give us a call at 877-377-8666.

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