The first element in a New York DWI case is whether the individual was “operating” a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired. The word “operation” has a very specific meaning in the context of a New York DWI case. Of course, driving counts as operation, but operation can also be found where you have only started the car.
Under New York law, you operate a motor vehicle if you start the the motor vehicle with the intention of putting it in motion.
If a driver is found asleep behind the wheel of a running car, the key question is whether they intended on placing the car in motion. This element can be difficult for a prosecutor to prove because it addresses the mental state of the driver. A skilled New York DWI attorney may be able to create a dispute of the driver’s intent. If the driver’s intent is in dispute, then the people will not have met their burden as to this element of the charge.
In a typical drunk driving / DWI case, operating is observed by the arresting police officer. What happens if there is a one car accident and there is no observation by the police? Often drivers will confess to having operated a motor vehicle when questioned by a police office, but when no driver statement is made the prosecutor must resort to indirect evidence. Circumstantial evidence is admissible in a New York DWI criminal case to prove that a driver operated a vehicle as defined by New York drunk driving laws. However, if the circumstantial evidence fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver operated the motor vehicle, then the prosecutor will not have met his burden.
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