Brief History of “Driving Under Influence” in New York
On a Sunday afternoon in July 2009, eight people died when a Windstar van traveled almost two miles, the wrong way, before colliding full-on into an SUV. The crash was the most horrific motor vehicle accident in Westchester County since July, 1934 when a bus accident killed 20 people. The 2009 crash didn’t have any impact on existing DUI laws, but the resulting publicity helped to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving.
The cause of the crash is still the matter of some debate. Diane Schuler, the 36-year old driver of the minivan, had a BAC, blood alcohol content, over twice the legal limit. The toxicology report also showed THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in her system. Schuler’s family members maintain that she had never been seen to drink excessively and the accident must’ve been caused by a stroke or other medical cause.
In the moment’s before the crash, Schuler’s 9-year-old niece, Emma, used a cell phone to call her mother from the minivan. “There’s something wrong with Aunt Diane,” Emma said. Those last words became the title of an HBO documentary directed by Emmy winner Liz Garbus.
The documentary is often shown in treatment programs, high schools and colleges to warn against the dangers of driving while intoxicated. Driving under the influence in New York will cost you. With no room for tolerance, it is mandatory that you find an experienced, proven DUI lawyer as quickly as possible.
NYC DUI Attorney Explains the Charge
A first DUI offense can put you in jail for up to a year and a fine ranging from $500 to $1000. Under age? In New York a minor will lose their driving privilege for a minimum of one year. Even for someone over 18, there is still a minimum of six months license revocation. Some counties in New York State will also give you an automatic 30 day jail sentence on your first offense — no questions asked. Prison terms of up to 7 years are possible as a result of a felony DUI conviction — and that is even before considering collateral circumstances which can raise the prison time further.
An “Aggravated DUI” charge for being behind the wheel with a blood alcohol content of .18% or higher will get you a minimum of $1000 fine, one-year in jail and a one-year license suspension when you’re released. Go out and get a second or third offense and the restitution and jail time rises exponentially. As the laws tighten more each year, it’s important to seek out the services of a good attorney.
The direct, visible cost of a DUI will not be your only expense. There are surcharge payments, alcohol screening tests, potential costs for treatment if court ordered, increased insurance rates, an interlock device for your vehicle and other hidden costs. The indirect costs of a DUI can easily exceed the direct costs such as a fine.
While many DUI cases are different, there are some generalizations that can be made.
On the lower end of the continuum, a DUI may be considered a misdemeanor, and a 2nd or 3rd offense could result in a Class D or Class E felony. If you have a child in the car with you when arrested for DUI, even during your first offense, you’re talking about a Felony. If a child is harmed or injured as a result of your driving under the influence, you’l also be required to register with the New York Child Abuse and Maltreatment database.
3-Strikes Felony Law
Despite already being one of the strictest states, New York is about to get stricter. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an amendment to New York’s laws against drunk driving that will provide for harsher punishment. Three DUI-related offenses within a 15 year period will be a felony. Potential penalties include up to seven years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Named “Vince’s Law” for a man killed in Syracuse by a driver who had five prior DUI offenses, the law will take effect November 1, 2014.
There are several defenses to a DUI charge. An experienced attorney will be able to advise you which one to take depending on your circumstances. Very generally, most DUI defenses focus on one or more of these factors:
- Challenge the legality of the initial stop by the police officer
- Challenge the observations of the police officer leading to the arrest
- Challenge the field sobriety tests (if administered)
- Challenge the maintenance or use of the equipment used to test BAC
- Challenge the processes before, during, and after the BAC test
- Challenge the findings of the BAC
A DUI charge is very specific in New York City and is considered a specialty area of law. Tremendous consequences wait for someone who is found guilty. While the best advice is to contact an attorney immediately, there are some things you should keep in mind to help protect your legal standing.
The old maxim says that anyone who represents himself has a fool for a client. Even though that holds especially true for criminal DUI cases in New York courts, there are some things you can do to best protect yourself legally if you are ever charged with DUI.
- Use pre-emptive tactics. Simply don’t drink and drive. It’s cheaper to take a cab than get convicted under DUI laws (especially in NY), but if you are pulled over…
- Keep your mouth shut. Be polite to the officer, but remember you have an absolute right to remain silent until you see your DUI attorney.
- Refuse Sobriety Test. Law enforcement cannot require you to take a field sobriety test, until and unless you admit that you have consumed alcohol. If the officer asks you to do so, you can refuse the test, but do it politely.
- Refuse Breathalyzer Test. You have the right to decline to participate in Breathalyzer tests. No matter what the circumstances are, do not perform this test. However, if you are arrested, then you are legally required to do so when you arrive at the police station.
- Sign the Summons. If you are issued a summons, sign it. Your signature doesn’t indicate guilt, it just acknowledges receipt of the ticket.
- You Are Being Recorded. Keep in mind that you are being recorded and whatever you do or say will probably end up being used in the court case against you.
As you can tell, a DUI conviction in New York can change your life forever. The only way to avoid the consequences is to get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether.