Westchester County DWI Lawyer
Protecting Your Driving Privileges, Reputation and Freedom — New York DWI Offenses
When drivers become aware that they are being pulled over after consuming alcohol or ingesting a drug, the experience can be both stressful and frightening. While the consequences of a DWI conviction can have a devastating impact on your life, our Westchester County DWI defense attorneys at Greco Neyland PC have successfully defended many people charged with DWI. Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are particularly aggressive when prosecuting alcohol and drug-related driving offenses because of the focus on drunk driving accidents by groups like MADD. This social and political pressure can result in overzealous police officers and assistant district attorneys.
At Greco Neyland PC, we are committed to protecting drivers from being run over by a criminal justice process that focuses on the abstract notion of “getting drunk drivers off the road” rather than protecting the rights and reputation of those accused of DWI offenses. Our DWI defense attorneys are committed to carefully scrutinizing every aspect of the law enforcement officer’s conduct and investigation, including the initial stop, conduct following the stop, standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs), chemical tests of breath, blood or urine and all other aspects of an officer’s DWI investigation.
DWI law is unique because it is a criminal offense where your guilt or innocence may be predicated primarily on the results of a supposedly scientific form of testing. The false assumption that DWI cases are based on objective testing supported by sound science can be demoralizing if you are arrested for a drug or alcohol-related driving offense. The reality is that no charge is leveled against otherwise law-abiding people more than DWI. Our Westchester County DWI attorneys are committed to making sure that a judge or jury is aware of the lack of objectivity and scientific reliability behind field sobriety testing, police officer observations and chemical testing of blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
New York DWI Law
Although every DWI case will involve a unique set of facts and circumstances, a prosecutor must establish four elements beyond a reasonable doubt in every DWI prosecution:
- Driving (operation) of
- A Motor Vehicle
- On a Public Highway
- While Impaired or Intoxicated
The most critical of these elements in most cases is that a driver is intoxicated or impaired. The evidence to establish this element of the offense frequently is a BAC level over the legal limit of .08 percent, which is referred to as a “per se” violation. When your BAC level exceeds the legal threshold, you can be charged for DWI even if there is no evidence that you drove unsafely as long as the officer had a lawful reason to stop you and initiate a DWI investigation.
The other type of evidence that may be used to establish that you are impaired or intoxicated involves some or all of the following:
- Officer observations of erratic driving
- Admitting that you have been drinking during a stop
- Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs)
- Post-stop observations of a driver (i.e. red eyes, slurred speech, lack of coordination, odor or alcohol on breath)
- Driving that causes a car accident
Either of these types of evidence may provide the basis for a DWI conviction, but our Westchester County DWI attorneys have extensive experience challenging chemical testing via blood, breath or urine and attacking evidence based on your driving, SFSTs and officer observations during the stop.
The Traffic Stop and DWI Investigation
Indicia of Intoxication &Preliminary Questions
If you are pulled over by a police officer after a night of drinking, the way you handle the traffic stop can have a significant impact on your Westchester County DWI case. While there are a number of scenarios that might lead to a DWI arrest, such as a sobriety checkpoint, traffic accident or sleeping in a stopped vehicle, the majority of DWI cases start when an officer stops a motorist for a traffic violation or erratic driving. If the officer suspects that you have been drinking, the officer may ask questions about your activities or alcohol consumption.
While you should not lie, you also are not required to provide incriminating answers to these questions. The officer will use this brief period to observe you for signs of intoxication and to obtain admissions that justify a further DWI investigation. The officer will be looking for so-called signs of intoxication (also referred to as “indicia of intoxication”), such as red, watery eyes, slurred speech, alcohol on your breath or lack of coordination. Because the officer may not have had sufficient cause to justify a DWI arrest when you were pulled over, you should avoid providing this evidence by engaging in a conversation. Although you are required to provide your driver’s license and registration, you should politely decline to provide information in response to officer inquiries about your activities or drinking.
A reasonable response to these questions is to indicate that you would like the opportunity to talk to an attorney about your rights. The officer will not grant this request, but it provides a justifiable excuse for declining to answer questions. If the officer refuses the request, you should ask if you are under arrest or free to leave. Although the officer will probably not let your drive away, this may preserve certain defenses.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests &Portable Breath Testing
After the officer has pulled you over and asked you questions about your activities or your use of drugs or alcohol, the officer will ask you to submit to standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) and a portable breath test. There is no legal obligation to participate in either of these types of tests, which are merely administered to provide probable cause for a DWI arrest. There is nothing to be gained by being belligerent, so you should politely indicate that you do not wish to participate in SFSTs or a portable breast test without speaking to an attorney because you have heard the tests are inherently unreliable. Although this non-cooperation will likely result in an arrest, you will not have provided damaging evidence that was gathered through inaccurate procedures and unreliable forms of testing. If you have agreed to SFSTs and/or a portable breath test (PBT), our Westchester County DWI attorneys are certified by NHTSA to administer the SFSTs (just the like cop who arrested you) and therefore understand how to challenge the cop’s administration of those tests to you before you were arrested.
Formal Chemical Testing
Although you may refuse SFSTs and a PBT without significant negative repercussions, a formal breath test at the police station or blood test at a hospital is a different matter. New York’s implied consent law imposes an administrative suspension of your driver’s license for a refusal of formal chemical testing of BAC level even if you are not convicted of DWI. There are still situations where it may be advisable to refuse this form of BAC testing, such as if any of the following situations apply:
- Prior convictions for DWI
- Extremely high level of intoxication
- Child passenger in the vehicle
- Traffic accident (especially a crash causing injury or death)
While we still believe there is no reason beneficial to your case to submit to a breath or blood test, if requested, a refusal will generally result in more serious consequences in terms of your driving privileges. While the prosecutor will not have BAC testing results to use during your criminal case, the refusal may be offered as consciousness of guilt. However, we will challenge this during trial and make sure the jury is aware that it is not your job to aid the police in gathering evidence against you, regardless of the number of drinks you might have had. Further, the state may still offer other types of evidence to prove DWI like officer observations prior to and during your stop.
Tenacious Trial Defense in Westchester County DWI Criminal Cases
Admittedly, our suggestions for handling a DWI stop will not prevent a DWI arrest, but they will provide a firm foundation for our DWI defense attorneys to seek a not guilty verdict at trial or dismissal of the charges. Our DWI defense attorneys at Greco ♦ Neyland PC have built our reputation on carefully analyzing every aspect of our client’s stop, arrest and chemical testing so that we can obtain an acquittal at trial or dismissal of the charges. We approach DWI cases with an orientation toward fighting the charges not following a path of least resistance to a plea bargain. Some of the defenses we may employ in a New York DWI case include:
- Challenging the legal basis for the initial stop
- Seeking exclusion of incriminating statements
- Exposing the lack of reliability of field sobriety tests and portable breath tests
- Revealing improper procedures during field sobriety tests
- Demonstrating issues regarding blood testing and contamination of blood specimens
- Providing alternative theories for poor field sobriety test results or officer observations during a stop (e.g. illness, injury)
Asserting challenges to breath test results like the mouth alcohol defense, low-carb diets, diabetes, non-compliance with mandatory waiting period, etc.
At Greco Neyland PC, our Westchester County DWI defense lawyers represent clients facing the full spectrum of DWI type offenses in Westchester County and the surrounding New York boroughs. We offer a free consultation so we can evaluate your case and explain how we can help. Call us today at (914) 898-8800 or click here to schedule your free consultation.