If a police officer has pulled you over on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, the officer will look for signs that indicate your level of intoxication.
In many cases, the officer will have pulled you over for a violation of traffic laws, such as swerving between lanes, running a stop sign, or speeding. Once you have been stopped and asked to present your license and insurance information, the police officer will then look for any signs of intoxication, such as glassy eyes or slurred speech. If the officer believes you may be intoxicated, he or she will ask you to step out of the vehicle and ask you to take a field sobriety test. This typically involves a physical test like the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn, or the one-leg stand to judge your level of impairment. At this point, if the officer believes you have been driving under the influence of alcohol, you will be asked to take a breathalyzer test.
If the breathalyzer tests reveal you have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher, you will be charged with driving while intoxicated, or DWI. If you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, you can still be charged with a common law DWI. In New York State, if you blow below 0.08 but the officer believes your ability to drive is still impaired, you could be charged with driving while ability impaired by alcohol, or DWAI.
At the arraignment
Several things may happen at your arraignment. If you received a DWI during the traffic stop, your license will have been suspended. At the arraignment, you can request a hardship license from the judge if you need it for essential functions, such as driving to work, school, or health appointments. However, if you refused the breath test or blood test after being arrested, you will not be able to obtain a hardship license. You might still be able to obtain driving privileges at the special administrative hearing that deals with the actual suspension of the license.
If you've been charged with a DWI and you have no prior history and you did not cause an accident or any personal injury, you will most likely not be incarcerated. In a scenario like this, the judge will typically reduce the DWI to a DWAI charge. While a DWI is a criminal offense, a DWAI is a traffic infraction with a noncriminal disposition.
If you have any prior DWIs, you could be facing serious jail time. In addition, even if this was your first DWI, if you caused an accident involving an injury to another individual, you will face the possibility of going to jail.
Everyone is entitled to one direct appeal, and that includes for a drunk driving charge. If you have been charged with a DWI or a DWAI, you should seek out the assistance of a lawyer who will fight for your rights.
Who can help?
While nobody plans on being pulled over by the police, it's an unfortunate reality for millions of Americans each year. Based in Buffalo, New York, Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria is one of the region's go-to DWI law firms. The firm's experienced DWI attorneys earned a top-tier ranking in criminal defense by U.S. News & World Report. In the event you are pulled over for a DWI, make sure you know your rights and how to respond to the police officers with Lipsitz Green's DWI Arrest Guide App.
This article does not purport to give legal advice and is for informational purposes only.