What if You Are Stopped for Suspicion of DWI?
In the State of New York, if you are charged with any criminal offense related to drinking and driving, you will need the legal advice and representation that a Syracuse DWI attorney provides, and you will need that advice and representation as quickly as possible.
Law enforcement agencies in New York use breathalyzer devices to determine if a driver should be arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). Prosecutors also use breathalyzer examination results to prove driving while intoxicated charges and win convictions.
If a law enforcement officer in New York stops you for suspicion of DWI, does the law require you to take a breathalyzer examination if the officer asks? What happens if you refuse that request? If you’re charged with DWI, what are your legal rights, and what steps should you take?
You will find the answers to these questions if you continue reading this brief discussion of breathalyzer tests, DWI, and your rights, but if you’re currently facing any criminal charge related to drinking and driving, you should also contact a Syracuse DWI lawyer at once.
Can You Legally Refuse a Breathalyzer Exam?
Implied consent is the law in this state. This means that by driving a vehicle in New York, you have already legally agreed to take a breathalyzer test (or a blood or urine test) that measures your blood alcohol content (BAC) level if you are asked to by a law enforcement officer.
A refusal to take a roadside breathalyzer test (also called a BPT or preliminary breath test) is considered a traffic “infraction” under New York law, and can result in you being issued a traffic ticket. If you decline to take a formal breathalyzer examination at the police station, your driver’s license will be suspended for 15 days or until you are provided a DMV Refusal Hearing (whichever is shorter). If you lose the DMV Refusal Hearing, your NYS drivers license will be administratively revoked for one year (has nothing to do with your criminal case in Court).
A second refusal of a breathalyzer test within five years (or any DWI charge within the previous five years) raises the fine and prompts an eighteen-month license revocation. A charge or conviction for a refusal to test is separate from a DWI charge or the penalties for a DWI conviction.
What if You Are a Commercial Driver?
If you carry a New York commercial driver’s license (CDL), there is also a fine for a refusal to test, and the license revocation period is extended to eighteen months.
A second refusal to test (or any other alcohol-related driving offense within the previous five years) may trigger a permanent CDL revocation.
What Can Happen if You Refuse to Take a Breathalyzer Test?
Drivers in New York should know that although the charges and penalties for a refusal to take a formal breath test are entirely separate from the charges and penalties for driving while intoxicated, a refusal to submit to a formal breathalyzer test may have a significant impact on your DWI case.
When you refuse to take a breathalyzer exam, you prevent a police officer from gathering evidence against you. However, you may still be convicted of driving while intoxicated – without any breathalyzer exam results – if there is additional evidence of your guilt.
If you refuse to test, you will nevertheless probably be arrested and charged with DWI. If the prosecution does not have your breathalyzer test results, the officer who arrested you can still testify regarding any odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, erratic driving, or slurred speech that they claim to have observed.
Should You or Shouldn’t You?
Some drivers in New York choose to take the breathalyzer test, avoid the fine and hearing and potential license revocation, and then challenge the results of the breathalyzer exam in court. Breathalyzer test results may be inaccurate for a variety of reasons.
Non-alcoholic substances that breathalyzers may identify as alcohol can be found in medicines, foods, beverages, breath fresheners, toothpastes, and mouthwashes. And like all devices, breathalyzer devices must be calibrated and maintained, or inaccurate results are inevitable.
Even a breathalyzer device that has been properly maintained and calibrated is vulnerable to RFI – radio frequency interference – especially in locations where law enforcement officers are using walkie-talkies and two-way radios.
Breathalyzer examinations must only be conducted by trained law enforcement officers who follow the established testing guidelines.
When Should You Reach Out to an Attorney?
If a police officer reasonably believes that you’re intoxicated and that you cannot drive safely, you’ll be taken into police custody. The breathalyzer test merely gives the arresting officer more evidence of your intoxication.
If you’re charged with driving while intoxicated in or near the Syracuse area because of a breathalyzer test result – or for any other reason – you must call the offices of a Syracuse DWI attorney at your first possible opportunity.
If you’re charged with driving while intoxicated, you need an aggressive defense attorney to fight on your behalf. Even a misdemeanor first-offense driving while intoxicated conviction can be penalized with time in jail, a costly fine, and a driver’s license revocation.
What Will Your Attorney Do on Your Behalf?
Your DWI attorney will negotiate to have the DWI charge against you reduced or completely dismissed.
Your attorney may challenge the breathalyzer test results, the accuracy or manner in which the standardized field sobriety tests were administered, the testimony of the arresting officer, or the constitutionality of the traffic stop that led to your arrest.
What’s Important for Drivers to Remember?
DWI causes over 17,000 fatalities every year in the United States, including 307 fatalities in New York in 2019 and 349 in 2020. That’s why New York’s police agencies enforce DWI laws so aggressively. In 2021, more than 21,000 adult drivers were arrested for DWI in this state.
You probably already know that the way to avoid DWI trouble is not actually legal advice – it’s just common sense: Don’t Drink and Drive. Although transportation for hire isn’t cheap in the Syracuse area, it costs a lot less than a ride to the jail, the emergency room, or the morgue. However, wrongful arrests, inaccurate breath test results as well as other factors, like a lack or officer training all contribute to wrongful arrests for DWI.
Taxicabs, limousines, and ride services like Uber and Lyft are available in the Syracuse area “24/7/365.” Even sleeping at a friend’s or renting a room for the night is better than a driving while intoxicated charge. Do what it takes to avoid driving while you are under the influence.
A conviction in this state for driving while intoxicated can take your freedom and damage your future, but you have the legal right to advice and representation from a Syracuse DWI lawyer. If you’re charged with DWI, get that legal help at once. Your future depends on it.