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Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in New York State, accompanied by significant penalties and lasting repercussions. Understanding the complexities of DUI charges can be challenging without proper knowledge or representation. If you or a loved one is facing a DUI charge, it’s crucial to seek reliable legal assistance as soon as possible. Reach out to Civardi & Obiol now for complete criminal defense counsel aimed at assisting you during this challenging period.

Understanding DUI, DWI, and DWAI: Definitions and Basics

Driving under the influence, commonly referred to as drunk driving, is a severe offense that involves operating a motor vehicle while impaired by the effects of alcohol or drugs. In New York State, charges related to impaired driving can sometimes be confusing due to the various terms used. Here’s a breakdown of the distinctions among DUI, DWI, and DWAI:

  • DUI (Driving Under the Influence): While the term “DUI” is commonly used in many states, New York State primarily uses “DWI” to refer to drunk driving offenses. However, the term “DUI” is often understood colloquially and can be used interchangeably with “DWI” in conversation, though it is not the official term in the state’s legal code.
  • DWI (Driving While Intoxicated): In New York State, DWI is the official charge for those driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. This is a criminal offense and can result in significant penalties, including fines, license suspension, and even jail time.
  • DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired): DWAI is a unique charge to New York and pertains to drivers who operate a vehicle while their ability is impaired by alcohol to a lesser extent than a DWI, typically with a BAC between 0.05% and 0.07%. DWAIs can also relate to impairment due to drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs, leading to varying levels of penalties based on the substances involved.

To determine impairment, law enforcement officers utilize various methods, such as field sobriety tests, breathalyzers, and blood tests. Refusing to submit to these tests can lead to automatic penalties, often including license suspension. It’s important to remember that DUI laws don’t only apply to alcohol. Operating under the influence of prescription medications, illegal drugs, or over-the-counter remedies that impair one’s ability can also result in a DUI charge. 

Consequences of a DUI Conviction

A DUI conviction results in harsh penalties, from significant fines and jail time to mandatory alcohol programs and extended driving suspensions that disrupt daily life. Additionally, post-conviction repercussions include soaring car insurance rates, hindrances to job opportunities, especially in driving-related roles, and a lingering stigma that can strain personal relationships and tarnish one’s community reputation.

DUI Arrest Process and Your Rights

The DUI arrest process typically commences with a traffic stop, initiated by a law enforcement officer who suspects a driver may be under the influence. During this stop, the officer will observe the driver for signs of impairment, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or the smell of alcohol. If the officer deems it necessary, they may administer field sobriety tests, which can include tasks like walking in a straight line or standing on one leg. Failing these tests or showing visible signs of impairment often leads to the next step, a breathalyzer or blood test to measure blood alcohol content.

It’s crucial for individuals to know their rights during a DUI arrest. First, you have the right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself; any statements made can be used against you in court. New York has “implied consent,” which means that if you are operating a vehicle and are lawfully arrested for suspected impaired driving, you are deemed to have automatically consented to submit to a breathalyzer test for the detection of alcohol or drugs. Refusing to take the test can result in the immediate suspension of your driver’s license and can be used as evidence against you in court. This refusal may lead to additional penalties, separate from any DUI or DWI charges. Understanding the law and your rights can provide some guidance in what is often a stressful and confusing situation.

Potential DUI Defense Strategies

Navigating a DUI charge can be challenging, but various defense strategies might be employed depending on the specifics of your case. An experienced attorney can assess the situation and decide which approach is most appropriate. Here are some potential DUI defense strategies:

  • Challenging the Legality of the Traffic Stop: If the law enforcement officer did not have a valid reason (probable cause) to initiate the traffic stop, any evidence collected during the stop might be deemed inadmissible in court. Every driver is protected against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment.
  • Questioning the Accuracy of Breathalyzer or Field Sobriety Tests: Machines can malfunction, and human error can occur during breathalyzer administration. Additionally, field sobriety tests can be subjective and may not accurately indicate impairment, especially if external factors like uneven terrain or medical conditions influence the results.
  • Medical and Health Conditions: Some medical conditions or diets can produce mouth alcohol or affect an individual’s ability to pass field sobriety tests. For instance, individuals with certain medical issues might have difficulty with balance, which could lead to false positives on sobriety tests.
  • Chain of Custody Issues with Blood or Urine Samples: If the prosecution cannot produce a clear chain of custody for the sample, or if there’s evidence of tampering, mishandling, or contamination, the results might be deemed unreliable and excluded from evidence.
  • Improper Officer Training: Officers must be properly trained to administer field sobriety tests and breathalyzer exams. If it’s demonstrated that the arresting officer lacked proper training or didn’t follow standard procedures, the results can be challenged.

Get Help You Face a DUI Charge

At Civardi & Obiol, we bring a wealth of experience and a dedicated approach to every DUI case we handle. Our seasoned attorneys thoroughly understand New York State’s DUI laws and are equipped to craft a robust defense tailored to your specific circumstances. By partnering with us, you gain an advocate who will tirelessly champion your rights and fight for the best possible outcome. Don’t navigate this challenging situation alone; reach out to our team today for a free consultation and get the guidance and representation you deserve.

Civardi & Obiol serves clients for matters relating to DUI defense in the following regions: Nassau County & Suffolk County.