Elements of the DWI or DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Investigation
Driving Under the Influence investigations are begun for many reasons. (Note: the terms DWI and DUI are used interchangeably.) A police officer may see a driver drift between lanes, or exhibit other driving patterns associated with DUI. A motorist may be stopped for a traffic violation that initially has nothing to do with drunk driving, such as expired registration tags or speeding, and a drinking and driving investigation follows. An accident may prompt a drunk driving arrest, even if no one was injured. Sometimes all it takes is the bad luck of driving into a DUI checkpoint.
There are also times that police initiate DUI / DWI investigations even though they didn’t have a valid legal reason to stop the driver. An experienced New York DUI / DWI drunk driving attorney knows how to fight to suppress any evidence gathered during a traffic stop that occurred even though there was no probable cause to believe a crime was being committed.
One of three things must happen to trigger a DUI investigation: There must be an observed violation of the law, a driving pattern so suggestive of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs so as to provide a reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place, or a lawful roadblock or checkpoint. If none of these conditions are present, any evidence gathered during the traffic stop likely will be suppressed.
One reason drivers are stopped on suspicion of DUI is because of driving patterns such as weaving, driving too slowly, or rapid braking or acceleration. Some of the most common reasons police stop drivers, such as speeding, aren’t recognized as DWI driving patterns by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a skilled attorney may prove that an officer had no reason to stop the driver on suspicion of drunk driving, resulting in the suppression of any evidence gathered during the stop.
Sometimes drivers are stopped after police receive an anonymous tip that someone is driving in a way that is suggestive of being under the influence. In the past, these DUI / DWI stops couldn’t take place unless the law enforcement officer observed some independent illegal activity. However, recent New York decisions have held that police may now stop drivers based solely on anonymous tips. Fortunately, the officer is still bound by other restrictions that strictly govern DUI / DWI arrests. A skilled drunk driving criminal defense attorney may be able to have evidence gathered during such a stop suppressed.
Drunk driving checkpoints or DUI / DWI roadblocks are tools increasingly used by law enforcement to snare drivers on a number of offenses, including drinking and driving. However, there are stringent guidelines required for the use of DUI checkpoints that police don’t always follow. If a drunk driving arrest stems from a checkpoint where police didn’t follow these strict rules, evidence gathered during the stop may be thrown out.
DUI prosecutions are generally driven by four different categories of evidence: driving pattern, physical signs and symptoms, field sobriety test performance, and chemical test results. If there is an investigative failing in any of these areas, the DUI prosecution is in jeopardy. The best way to fight a drunk driving case is to consult with an experienced DUI / DWI attorney as soon as possible.
Drivers facing a New York DUI / DWI are usually charged with two separate offenses – operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (exhibiting common signs of intoxication with or without a breath test), and violating the state’s per se laws – in New York (and throughout the United States), that means having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of.08 percent or greater.
The prosecutor in a DUI prosecution is required to prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, and in the case of reasonable doubt of the DUI suspect’s guilt, a jury must find the driver not guilty. To convict a motorist of driving under the influence, a prosecutor must convince a jury that the person was driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. To convict a driver of violating New York’s per se laws, a prosecutor must prove that the driver had a BAC higher than .08 percent while he or she was driving, not an hour or more later, when most chemical tests are conducted. An experienced DUI / DWI attorney knows how to punch holes in a typical drunk driving case, creating reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors on one or more elements of the offense..