A New York City police officer pulled you over and suspected you of drunk driving. He or she administered a breath test that indicated you had a blood alcohol concentration level at or above .08. For the officer, this might conclusively prove your impairment and provide probable cause (a legal reason) to arrest you. However, to a criminal defense attorney, it's far from conclusive.
You probably remember the very day you took the test to obtain a valid driver's license. Whether that was a year or so ago, or if you've been driving for decades, chances are, you consider that past event a milestone in your life.
Drunk driving has long been a common topic among public safety advocates. Certainly most people in New York would agree that keeping the roads safe and reducing traffic accidents is important. However, many motorists also recognize that over-vigilance can lead to inaccurate stereotypes about people who are arrested for driving while intoxicated. It is also important for people to remember that not everyone arrested for DWI, DWAI or DUI charges is actually guilty.
Throughout New York City, the level of vigilance over various traffic violations has definitely increased in the past year or so. This can be seen in a variety of ways and against many different types of offenses. Drunk driving is one of these things. While it is important to keep the public safe when on the road, whether as a motorist, passenger, pedestrian, bicyclist or motorcyclist, it is equally important to protect the rights of those accused of vehicular offenses.
You do not need to have lived in New York long to know that the state takes drunk driving very seriously. Penalties for DUI, DWI or related offenses can cost your thousands of dollars, put you in jail and even see you lose your right to drive for a certain period of time. The risk of being arrested for driving while intoxicated always exists but can be higher during holiday times such as in the summer.
New York has some extremely strict laws and penalties for drunk driving. This is something that can be seen in other parts of the country as well. The need to improve safety on the road for all persons is important yet so too is the need to ensure fair treatment to all drivers. The negative stereotypes about people who are arrested for driving while intoxicated are not always accurate.
Holiday times, especially when spanning a weekend, are common times for law enforcement to step up their efforts in cracking down on traffic violations. New Yorkers may often feel as though every day is a holiday with the crackdowns they have seen since the mayor launched the Vision Zero plan last year. However, there still remain more arrests and tickets over key holiday times, including for driving while intoxicated.
Speeding or other traffic violations that may involve pedestrians are not the only situations watched more carefully by New York police these days. Especially over a holiday weekend, law enforcement can be expected to monitor suspected drunk driving activity more closely as well. Local news media give a lot of attention to reports involving people arrested for driving while intoxicated and often paints them as irresponsible citizens that do not care about others. That, however, is not necessarily an accurate or complete view.
New Yorkers quick to jump on the bandwagon that all people arrested for impaired driving offenses are irresponsible drunks should rethink that position. Many a responsible and professional person has been and can find themselves in such a situation. A quick stop for happy hour on the way home from the office all that is needed to put a person in jeopardy of a drunk driving arrest.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has guidelines for three types of field sobriety tests. According to the NHTSA, law enforcement members in New York and across the country are trained to use these tests when they suspect someone of drunk driving. Those tests include the following: