The penalties for DWI can be severe in New York, and even motorists with no prior record of drunk driving may face jail time and a loss of their driving privileges. However, there are a number of ways that a criminal defense attorney can advocate on behalf of a client charged with driving under the influence. While attorneys will often challenge the evidence that prosecutors rely on to establish intoxication, such as the results of toxicology tests, there are situations where an affirmative defense will be mounted.
With an affirmative defense, an attorney will provide an explanation for the drunk driving rather than dispute that their client was intoxicated. Examples of an affirmative defense to drunk driving charges include claiming that a driver was coerced into driving drunk or they were entrapped by a police officer. An attorney could also argue that driving while intoxicated was justified. This argument could be made if the alleged drunk driver was transporting a badly injured individual to hospital.
While an affirmative defense is sometimes an option, attorneys will usually seek to have drunk driving charges reduced or dismissed by challenging the validity of the evidence against their client. The first thing that many attorneys will scrutinize is the behavior of the law enforcement officers involved. Police officers are not permitted to pull a vehicle over without good reason, and drunk driving charges may be dismissed if a prosecutor is unable to show that probable cause existed for the initial traffic stop.
Attorneys may also dispute the validity of the toxicology test results that prosecutors rely on to establish a driver’s level of impairment. Breath testing equipment is highly sophisticated, but it may yield misleading results if the device concerned has not been maintained according to strict protocols. Even blood tests, which are viewed as the most reliable method of determining intoxication, may be challenged by a defense attorney if prosecutors are unable to verify that the sample used was handled correctly.