Three Reasons You Should Worry About a DWI Arrest Even If You Never Drive Drunk
Most people assume that if you’ve been charged with DWI, you are guilty. Although many who are arrested for DWI are guilty, not everyone is. At times, those who are not guilty can be forced into taking a simple plea to a lesser charge (DWAI) because the risk and expense of trial is too great.
DWI is serious, and if charged, you’re in harm’s way. When you’re charged with DWI, you are facing significant fines, DMV fees, massive auto insurance increases, and even jail time. To further complicate matters, three (3) major flaws exist in the way DWI is investigated:
First, officers are trained to look for and record evidence proving you are drunk, but at times, ignore and fail to record evidence you are sober. Officers are trained to record evidence and equipped with forms making it easy to record evidence of intoxication. Evidence such as glassy eyes, slurred speech, odor of alcohol, impaired motor coordination are easily recorded by officers on a form often referred to as the Bill of Particulars. At a trial or a hearing on your case several months later, this will likely be the only evidence officers will remember. Additionally, there might have been a number of other things the officer saw and failed to record suggesting you might have been sober.
Second, the “Standardized Tests” used in DWI investigations are often conducted under non-standardized conditions with non-standard individuals, making results unreliable. Standardized field sobriety test (SFSTs) must be administered in the standardized manner the tests were designed and often they are not. Officers can fail to administer the test correctly forgetting essential mandatory instructions, failing mandatory demonstrations, and even scoring the test incorrectly. Physical considerations involving the subjects weight, age, disabilities, and a number of other factors having nothing to do with intoxication can cause an individual to fail SFSTs. Further, environmental factors, such as the surface they are administered upon, the weather (extreme cold/heat precipitation etc. ) can cause sober subjects to fail.
Third, the breath test devices used in DWI investigations operate under a variety of assumptions that just don’t always exist. The law in New York State makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of .08 or greater, but in most cases the main piece of evidence is a breath test, not a blood test. As such, the chemical breath test instrument at the police station must convert the subject’s breath sample into a BAC. This conversion is done using a “blood-breath conversion or partition ratio”. This is based upon the assumption that the ratio between the concentration of alcohol in the blood and the concentration of alcohol in the deep alveolar lung air (sampled by the breath test) is constant and is (2100 to 1). Simply stated, this 2100 to 1 ratio is not applicable to all people, and people do not all have the same blood-breath partition ratio. To further complicate matters, a persons blood breath partition ratio can change.
All of the above factors can results in biased investigations supported by unreliable tests. My team and I believe it is our calling to protect the civil liberties of American citizens. After realizing these injustices exist, my team and I have made it our lives work to defend those charged with DWI. We believe you have the right to be defended by a team of attorneys who understands the tests and the investigative failings of this system, and a team of attorneys who can point out the evidence suggesting you may have been sober.
Lastly, and most importantly, if you’re being investigated for a DWI, ask to call an attorney. This article is meant to provide you with some knowledge and general guidelines, but should not replace the sound advice of a good attorney who has been told the circumstances of your specific case.
Tom Anelli is the managing attorney of Tom Anelli and Associates a statewide New York DWI defense firm. The corporate office is located at 272 West Jefferson Street, Syracuse, NY 13202.