Unfortunately, all too often, the investigation performed by police is the only investigation performed in Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) cases in the criminal justice system. Too many lawyers fail to engage in any additional questioning or investigation of their own. Our DWI/DWAI lawyers do things differently. We investigate a number of different areas of potential legal and factual challenges in DWI/DWAI cases to make certain our clients’ rights are protected.
INVESTIGATING THE INITIAL POLICE CONTACT
Police are not allowed to simply stop cars at random and ask the drivers if they have been drinking. Instead, police may only approach a car and driver if they have a legally supportable reason to do so. Consequently, in every DWI/DWAI case, the first question must be, “Was police officer’s approach of the vehicle legally justified?” If there is no valid basis for the stop of the car, the evidence must be suppressed and the case dismissed. For instance, did you know that NY’s vehicle and traffic law requires a motorist to signal a turn into a parking lot, but not out of a parking lot? We recently represented a client who was stopped because he failed to signal coming out of a parking lot, but that’s not against the law! The DWI charge was dismissed, and he pleaded guilty to a charge of Open Container in a Motor Vehicle. He didn’t lose his license, he didn’t go to jail or on probation, and he didn’t have huge fines and insurance premium increases. One can investigate the stop of the car first by reading the police reports, and second by reviewing any video evidence available to ensure that the facts listed in the police report are consistent with the facts as shown on the video itself.
INVESTIGATING THE LENGTH OF THE STOP
Even if police have a lawful purpose for stopping the car, this does not necessarily mean the charge of DWI/DWAI was legally filed. Imagine, for example, a person is stopped for speeding. The police may not extend the purpose of a lawful stop just based on idle curiosity. To investigate a potential DWI/DWAI charge, police must have evidence to support such an investigation. This may include the driver slurring their words, demonstrating an inability to track a conversation or other indicia of drinking or drug use. However, if the driver appears not intoxicated, police do not have the right to detain the driver to explore potential intoxication. In the case where law enforcement improperly extends the length of a stop beyond what is legally supportable, the evidence must be suppressed, and the case dismissed.
INVESTIGATING THE CONDUCT ONCE THE STOP IS EXTENDED
If police believe a person is intoxicated, they may ask the person to perform certain field sobriety tests at the side of the road. These tests are designed to determine whether a person has issues with balance, following directions, and the like. Most often, the person’s ability to perform these tests is described in police reports. However, they are also documented on videotape, courtesy of the squad video or body camera. A proper DWI/DWAI investigation includes reviewing any and all videotapes to determine whether the facts listed in the police report are consistent with the facts observed on the tape. If an officer is willing to lie about a person’s abilities on a field sobriety test, other representations in the police report must necessarily be challenged as well.
CHALLENGING SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE
Many people think you can’t argue with scientific evidence. These people are wrong. In every case involving scientific testing, such as a test for the amount of alcohol present in a person’s system, there are checks and balances in place. These must be reviewed to make certain the test was administered in accordance with the proper protocols, and the test results were interpreted in a way that is consistent with scientific principles. For example, a hospital that uses alcohol-based wipes when cleansing the skin before drawing blood may inadvertently contaminate the blood sample with the alcohol used to clean the skin. This calls into question the test results. A police station that ignores the requirement of calibrating the breathalyzer machine at regular intervals similarly compromises the validity of test results.
ARE YOU CHARGED WITH A DWI/DWAI?
If you are facing DWI/DWAI charges, you are entitled to an attorney who will review every scrap of evidence with an eye towards factual and legal challenges. At Frost & Kavanaugh, we know the law. Together we can review your case and identify any areas we can challenge. The state has the burden of proving the allegations. With Art Frost fighting for you, you put yourself in the best position possible. Call us today to set up a consultation.