Being Pulled Over for DWI in NYC
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a serious charge that can have both legal and professional consequences. New York City police officers are cracking down on DWI cases, and there’s been a steady rise in conviction rates. If you’re pulled over by the NYPD for DWI, it’s in your best interest to start planning your legal defense immediately. The Law Offices of Ali Najmi can provide you with a solid, professional legal defense and help you achieve the best possible outcome when your DWI case goes to court. An experienced DWI attorney in New York will be familiar with the many factors the state considers when prosecuting DWI cases and will be able to identify the best possible defense strategy for your situation.
Vehicle in Motion
In order for the police to charge you with DWI in the state of New York:
- You must be presumed to have a BAC of .08% or be intoxicated by another substance.
- You must be behind the wheel of the vehicle.
- The engine must be running and not in the parked gear.
Probable Cause for Arrest
In order to pull you over, the police must have probable cause. That means that the officer who stops you must have witnessed a traffic infraction, observed a driving pattern consistent with DUI, suspected that a crime was being committed in the car, or had another legal reason for the stop. The court will take into account the validity of the stop and if it warranted any kind of search. The stop must be shown to be objectively based on a legitimate legal reason. In lieu of articulable probable cause for the stop, any subsequent evidence that the police may gather could be determined to be “fruits of the poison tree” by the court and deemed inadmissible.
DWI vs. DUI vs. DWAI
While Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is the common legal term in most states, this is not the case in New York. DUI is replaced by the terms DWI and DWAI, or Driving While Ability Impaired. DWAI results from a driver having a Blood Alcohol Content level between 0.05 and 0.07 percent, which falls short of the BAC required for DWI. With tested BAC levels of 0.08 and higher, DWI is a more serious offense than DWAI.
Field Sobriety Exercises
Police officers are trained to administer several different field sobriety exercises in order to check a person’s sobriety. The tests are made to test reflex, memory, and coordination. Failing means that the officer will have enough reason to issue an arrest. In the state of New York, the approved sobriety exercises include:
Walk and Turn
The officer will instruct you to take nine heal-to-toe steps, pivot, and take nine heal-to-toe steps back. Common reasons for failure include using your arms for balance, miscounting steps, or holding your arms out for balance.
This requires you to raise one leg and count to thirty using the “one-thousand” timekeeping method: “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, et cetera.” Common reasons for failure include putting your foot down early, holding your arms out for balance, rushing the count, and miscounting.
Nystagmus Eye Test
You will be asked to follow the horizontal movement of an object, like the tip of a pen, with your eyes as it moves across your field of vision. This measures the smooth pursuit of your eyes as they track the movement of the object. A jerking or twitching eyeball is an indication of intoxication.
The following methods may be used as alternatives, but aren’t usually administered:
- Saying the alphabet backwards
- Checking basic movement
- Checking basic balance
It’s important to note that you’re not required to perform field sobriety exercises, and in many cases, you shouldn’t. Field sobriety exercises can be difficult with even low levels of intoxication. Furthermore, officers are usually video recording your performance for courtroom presentation.
Your blood alcohol content depends on the amount of alcohol you drink, time between drinks, and your body weight. Chemical testing involves the use of blood, breath, or urine to measure BAC levels in a person.
Like many other states in the union, New York functions under an “implied consent” law. This means that you agree to consent to a future breath or urine test on demand as a condition of getting your license. You can still refuse BAC testing, but your license will be suspended by the DMV and your refusal can be brought up in court, along with any other charges.
Consent: To Blow or Not to Blow
You are free to refuse chemical testing, but doing so comes with consequences. You will have your license revoked and the issue will be addressed in court later. Multiple instances of refusal lead to harsher punishments. The results of your breath or urine test is admissible in court, and can be used to convict you, so it’s sometimes in your best interest to refuse, even if you know your license will be suspended.
Minors and DWI
According to New York’s “Zero Tolerance” law, any individual under 21 years of age is prohibited from having a BAC level of 0.02 percent or higher while driving. In addition, illegal drinking comes with immediate punishment and fees. Minors who refuse chemical tests will have their license revoked for a year and can be heavily fined.
Being Arrested for DWI
If you’re arrested for DWI in the city of New York, NYPD officers will bring you to their precinct station to process you. Your arrest will be put on file and remain on your criminal record, regardless of whether or not you’re convicted. If the police ask you to submit to a breath or urine test, but refuse to allow you to speak to your lawyer, it may be grounds to suppress the results of that test. In any event, your case stands the best chance of a favorable outcome if you hire legal representation early on.
Arrest, Booking, and Bail
A DWI suspect taken into custody is processed or “booked.” During booking, the NYPD officer will compile the report and probable cause affidavit before completing the arrest. During processing you may experience the following:
- A search of your person for weapons, contraband, or evidence of a crime
- Temporary confiscation of possessions
- Documentation of personal details, including the following:
- Driver’s License Number
- Hair Color
- Eye Color
- Photograph (Mugshot)
The process takes up to an hour. The state of New York allows you a certain number of local calls in order to contact your friends, family, bail bond organization, and your attorney.
When arrested for DWI charges, the incident goes on your criminal record. This record follows you for life and will likely cause issues in the future. For instance, a prospective employer may make a judgment about your character or could assume that you have a drinking problem if they learn about a DWI arrest. Criminal defense lawyers have options that can help you remove an embarrassing DWI arrest from your record.
You may have heard about this option from friends living in other states, but unfortunately, the state of New York does not allow for record expungement. While the expungement process eradicates the presence of a charge in many states, it’s not available to the people of New York.
Record sealing is the process of making your criminal record inaccessible to the public. Most employers and organizations will not be able to access it, and future charges will be less reliant on the information. Records of your fingerprints, palm prints, and any mugshots are destroyed when your case is sealed. Specific parties—such as law enforcement and other government entities—may still be able to view the records in certain cases.
Potential Jail Time
Until you are deemed to no longer be impaired, the NYPD may incarcerate you in a jail cell. If you are set to stay in the “drunk tank” you may not be released until morning. You may also be released into the custody of a friend or family member after booking.
Prosecution and Court Dates
You will be notified of an arraignment date at a New York Courthouse after your arrest. An arraignment is the formal reading of your charges, after which you will be able to plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” The judge will determine whether or not you have an attorney, which may lead to a longer, costlier trial if the answer is no. If you plead guilty at an arraignment, you waive your right to review evidence, file motions, or create a defense against the charges.
A plea bargain is where the defendant pleads guilty to a judge in exchange for reduced sentencing and punishment. In New York, there are laws that prohibit plea bargains for lesser DWI charges. The officials involved are restrained from offering certain plea deals in specific circumstances. In any event, you should allow your attorney to negotiate your plea with the prosecutor.
After arraignment ends, the bail is set by the judge, and the deposit will be returned at the next scheduled court date. Bail amounts are based on several factors, including prior charges, case context, and the circumstances of arrest. Bondspersons will loan bail money against collateral if you do not have funds available. Check the terms of repayment before accepting bail from a bondsperson.
Taking a DWI Case to New York Court
New York DWI court processes are a long and arduous series of engagements. You will need a representative that has knowledge of New York state law in order to best defend your case. Defending yourself, or having a state representative do it for you, is an option though not recommended for a myriad of reasons. Public defenders are usually overloaded with cases, giving them an incentive to negotiate a plea, even when the cases against their clients are week. You could end up getting advice that gets your case settled quickly, but ends up resulting in a harsher penalty than you would have otherwise received. DWI charges are serious enough to merit serious consideration over hiring professional legal representation.
Preliminary Court Hearing
At the preliminary hearing, the evidence surrounding a case and arrest is analyzed by the court. The judge will decide whether there is enough evidence for a prosecutor to effectively move forward with the charges.
Court Pre-Trial Motions
Your attorney may argue against the relevance or validity of certain evidence. If the evidence is suppressed, it can’t be used against you in the actual trial. In many cases, the state will drop the charges entirely.
A DWI trial follows standard guidelines that dictate the process. The jury is selected before your attorney, and the prosecution makes their opening statement. The court then outlines the evidence, presents testimonials, presents cross-examinations, and brings forth motions as well. After the closing arguments by both sides, the jury deliberates over the evidence provided before issuing a verdict.
Verdict for a DWI Case
Once the verdict is delivered, sentencing is the next step. If a defendant is found guilty, the consequences will likely be harsh. The circumstances of the case dictate the extent of the punishment. DWI cases are not taken lightly, and an unfavorable outcome in court can have repercussions on several aspects of your life.
Consequences of DWI Convictions
Zero Tolerance Law Consequences for Minors
Breaking New York’s “Zero Tolerance” law will net you heavy fines and consequences. There’s no jail time, but your license and ability to drive your vehicle may be affected by the proceedings. If you also refused a breath or urine test, there are additional penalties.
For it to qualify under the Zero Tolerance Law, the offense of DWI must come before you reach the age of 21. License suspension may last up to a year or even until you reach the age of 21. The court may again issue fees up to $125 in civil penalties and $100 for suspension termination. The court may also issue an ignition interlock system placed in your car. Additionally, the court can also order that you attend a Drinking Driver Program (DDP) at your own cost.
Chemical Test Refusal Under the Zero Tolerance Law
A first refusal of a chemical test may lead to a $300 penalty, $100 license penalty, and license revocation for up to a year.
Refusing a chemical test after a prior refusal may lead to a $750 fee, $100 license penalty, and license revocation up to a year.
DWI Penalties – 21 and Over
The consequences for the first time DWI offender includes license suspension for 90 days. Fees may be posted between $300 to $500. Additional costs include a $250 assessment fine that adds up to $750 over the three mandated years. A person convicted of DWI may also be sent to jail for up to 15 days and enrolled in the New York DDP program at cost to them.
For a second DWI offense coming within ten years of a previous conviction, the penalties can include license revocation for up to 18 months, fines from $1,000 to $5,000, and a $250 annual assessment fine, which adds up to $750 over the three mandated years.
A second offense DWI is a Class E felony. The court will be able to sentence the driver up to four years in jail with the chance for probation. The driver may also be court ordered to enroll in the New York DDP program at cost to them.
Multiple DWI Convictions
Those with a prior DWI history are subject to increased and escalating punishment. A driver who has been convicted of three to four DWI’s within twenty-five years of each other faces two years of relicensing denial. If the driver has faced revocation before, but it was not due to DWI or involved serious injury, then the charges are lighter.
In cases where a drive faced DWI revocation, the punishments are more severe. Relicensing may be denied for up to five years, and an ignition interlock system may be added to the driver’s vehicle. If a driver causes serious injury, they will be permanently denied a driver’s license. In cases where license reapplication is possible, the court may order DDP classes and rehabilitation program attendance.
Chemical Test Refusal
Refusing a chemical test for the first time can lead to license revocation for a year and a $500 penalty fee.
For a second refusal that comes within five years of the previous refusal, the punishment increases to a $750 penalty fee and license revocation for at least 18 months.
License suspension is the temporary loss of a license or driving privilege. Most, if not all, DWI convictions lead to some form of license suspension. There may be a suspension termination fee and any unresolved suspensions go on your record permanently. A definite suspension ends after the allotted time issued by the court. Indefinite suspension requires additional action in order to remove the suspension.
Court issued definite suspension results in a very clear period as to when it begins and ends. There may also be a termination fee to get your license reinstated. Driving with an invalid license could lead to new charges and increased punishment.
There is no time span for an indefinite suspension. Any conditions from court-ordered fees and penalties must be met before your license can be reinstated. Failure to meet those requirements means an indefinite loss of privileges and possibly additional legal punishment.
For higher degrees of DWI convictions, a license may be revoked. Revocation means that a license is completely cancelled. You’ll have to acquire a license after a specified amount of time has elapsed. Any new licenses are run through the DMV system and may be denied due to past transgressions or legal issues. Additional fines and penalties may apply.
A DMV hearing is an administrative proceeding to determine whether the state has cause to suspend your license for a chemical test refusal.
When a license is suspended or revoked you may be eligible for a hardship license. This type of license is extremely limited with specific, detailed parameters as to when you can drive your car. With a hardship license, you may use a vehicle to go drive to and from home to:
No other privileges are allowed and you cannot use the vehicle as part of your job. This license is only available to drivers without a DWI conviction in the past five years.
A New York conditional license allows for limited driving privileges. The license is more lenient than a hardship license, with several additional privileges allowed. A conditional license allows you to drive:
- To and from work
- During Hours of employment, including driving as part of your job
- To and from the DMV
- To and from school
- To and from probation activities
- During assigned time periods
- To and from doctors
Additional privileges may apply. A conditional license doesn’t allow you to drive vehicles that require a commercial license.
Specialty License Penalties
Commercial License Drivers
The DMV will suspend or revoke a commercial driving license for DWI charges. DWI fees, penalties, and on-record consequences are tougher for commercial driving license holders. And the consequences increase if the vehicle being driven was holding any hazardous materials. Depending on the degree of the DWI, a commercial license may have a suspension raised, or a conditional license may be granted.
Taxi drivers aren’t allowed to have a DWI conviction on their record. If you’re a taxi driver and you’re convicted of a DWI, your livelihood could be at risk.
State and federal restrictions for piloting an aircraft while under the influence are severe. FAA guidelines state that it is illegal to consume alcohol within eight hours prior to a flight. Pilots with a blood alcohol content above 0.04% face immediate penalties such as fines, imprisonment, and license revocation.
As a condition of their licensing, pilots are required to report any “ground” DWI convictions that occur while driving a car. Additionally, the FAA administers alcohol testing and background checks to check for any history of addictions. DWI convictions can affect flying privileges. If an individual’s driver’s license has been suspended two times or more within three years, they may be denied a student’s pilot license.
Hiring a DWI Lawyer Working in New York City and the Surrounding Areas
New York DWI law is comprised of a strict set of rules and regulations that can lead to complicated legal scenarios. With an experienced legal representative, you will have access to a host of new options and opportunities to defend your case. One small lapse in judgment could lead to a mark on your record that can several aspects of your life. Decrease the risk and hire a New York DWI lawyer that focuses on cases like yours. Call today for a free consultation on your case.