Katz Lawyers is recognized as a leading traffic law firm in New York City. Since we opened our doors in 1999, we have helped thousands of drivers avoid the harsh penalties that can result from a DWI conviction.
People are often confused about the field sobriety test they were ordered to take at the traffic stop, as well as the Breathalyzer or blood test to determine their blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
The Field Sobriety Test
Police make an initial traffic stop if the driver has committed a moving violation or exhibits erratic behavior that could be the result of alcohol or drugs. At the scene of the stop, if they suspect DWI or DWAI, they have the option of ordering the driver to perform basic physical activities, known commonly as a field sobriety test. The test itself, however, does not prove or disprove intoxication. It is designed to give police probable cause to charge the driver with DWI and remove him or her from behind the wheel.
Challenging the interpretation of the field sobriety test is often an effective strategy for fighting DWI charges. The test is subjective in nature, meaning that the police officers at the scene don't have any specific data results to use as evidence. They observe the driver going through the required physical activities and decide for themselves whether the person may be intoxicated. In fact, there may be any number of reasons a sober driver is unable to perform the required actions efficiently and effectively.
Refusing The Field Sobriety Test
The state of New York issues driver's licenses under the principle of implied consent. When you receive your license, you are consenting to follow the rules of the road and the orders of the police authorities and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In effect, from the first day you have your driver's license, you are consenting to take a field sobriety test when ordered to do so at any future traffic stop. Refusing to submit to the test gives the police officer the right to confiscate your license at the scene and drive you down to the local police station for further BAC testing. You will be responsible for the cost of towing your car from the scene of the traffic stop. An administrative law judge has the right to suspend your driving privileges up to one year, even if no DWI charges are pending. In the event you are charged with a criminal offense, the prosecutor may use your refusal as evidence of your consciousness of guilt.
Breath, blood and urine BAC tests are used as hard evidence of DWI or DWAI. The most prevalent test in New York is the breath analysis, commonly referred to as the Breathalyzer. Many police departments throughout the state carry field Breathalyzer equipment with them in their squad cars, but the results of these tests are used to determine probable cause, not hard evidence of intoxication. If the field BAC test indicates probable intoxication, you will be driven to the police station to take a formal blood, breath or urine test.
These machines must be carefully calibrated according to strict standards, and lab personnel must be trained and licensed for administering the test and interpreting results. In addition, the data collected from the test must be handled according to very specific rules for protecting the chain of evidence.
Refusing The BAC Test
In most cases, you have the right to refuse to take the formal BAC test. Refusing the test may prevent the prosecutor from gathering clinical data indicating intoxication, but, again, you face an implied consciousness of guilt that will be used against you in court. You also face an automatic driver's license suspension from an administrative law judge.
In the event you were arrested at the scene of a DWI accident that caused injuries, the police may get an immediate court order forcing you to submit to a blood test.
At Katz Lawyers, We Challenge Everything
Whether you refused or submitted to a field sobriety test or Breathalyzer test in New York, it is important to remember that there is always a sound defense strategy for fighting your DWI charges. Call Katz Lawyers in Manhattan at 646-835-2330 or Staten Island at 718-876-8105. You may also contact our offices by email to arrange an initial case evaluation with an attorney right away.