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DUI law book - The Inniss Firm, PLLC.DUI/DWI Definition and Legal BAC Levels in New York

In New York, DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) and DUI (Driving Under the Influence) refer to impaired driving resulting from alcohol or drugs. This is an often overlooked reality many fail to realize when understanding DUI/DWI charges in New York.

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1192 defines these offenses. For non-commercial drivers, the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08%. However, for commercial drivers, including those with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), the legal limit is lower – coming in at 0.04%. (This limit applies even if the CDL holder is operating their personal, non-commercial vehicle.) Finally, for drivers under the age of 21, any measurable BAC above 0.02% is considered illegal.

Importantly, DUI/DWI in New York is not limited to alcohol-related impairment. It encompasses impairment due to drugs as well, whether doctor-prescribed medications, illegal substances, or even over-the-counter substances that can affect your ability to drive safely. The law takes a comprehensive approach to address impairment from various sources, recognizing the potential dangers associated with both alcohol and drug use while operating a vehicle.

The Top Misconceptions About DWI Charges

Over my many years in law enforcement and serving as a criminal defense attorney, I’ve heard it all. That also means that I’ve noticed trends. Of course, perhaps the most common trend is the belief people have that being forthcoming and cooperative with the police is a good idea.

In most, if not all cases, this can be a costly misconception. In the worst cases, it can be a life-altering mistake. The truth is, those who face a DWI (or any criminal charge) are already at a significant disadvantage from the very moment they encounter law enforcement.

From the outset of their interaction with you, law enforcement seeks information, usually pertaining to an alleged offense. It is in your best interest not to disclose too much information about the incident they’ve initiated an interaction over. Simply speaking to the police could unwittingly lead you to make an admission of some sort which can have disastrous consequences in the long term. Instead, you should artfully and tactfully remain silent when dealing with the police.

Now, don’t misunderstand me — I’m not suggesting you be dishonest with law enforcement. But, drawing from my experience as a former state trooper, I can attest firsthand that information volunteered by individuals in response to seemingly innocuous questions from a police officer is often considered an admission in the legal sense.

Let’s dig deeper into the idea that the general public is perilously naïve to the level of disadvantage they face in these sorts of situations with an example: Imagine a woman leaving a social event late on a Saturday night after having a couple of drinks. Feeling a bit tipsy as a result, she soon decides to pull over and park her car, intending to rest and sleep off the effects. She believes this is the responsible course of action.

A neighborhood resident calls the police upon seeing a stranger they don’t recognize in a parked car outside their house, possibly sleeping or slumped over, requesting a check on the suspicious vehicle. The police arrive, knock on the driver’s side window, and, as is typical, the woman is startled and requires a moment to compose herself and grasp what is going on.

Despite thinking she was doing what was responsible, this situation makes her legally vulnerable to an impaired driving-related arrest in most jurisdictions. This vulnerability exists even if the police did not witness her driving and there is no report of poor driving behavior, swerving, weaving, or demonstrating any other cues typically associated with the impaired operation of a vehicle.

What You Need To Know About Crafty Police Questions And Related Pitfalls

If there’s one thing you need to know about law enforcement, it’s this: they conduct impaired driving investigations for a living and are trained to that end. They often frame and ask questions in a manner so as to gather information that can later be used against you.

The question, “How long ago did you drive here?” might seem harmless, but don’t be fooled — it is carefully crafted. The woman in our example will likely respond with, “Just a few minutes ago…” like anyone else would without a thought, even if they had not been drinking. Unfortunately, the police will likely interpret this as an admission of driving the vehicle to that location, acting as a key component in any impaired driving arrest.

The officer’s inquiry becomes particularly potent with her in the driver’s seat in possession of the keys and the car registered in her name. Prior to her response, they had no idea whether she had driven herself there or not. Directly replying to the question, “How long ago did you drive here?” coupled with other incriminating circumstances, gives the officer precisely what they are looking for and will significantly impact legal proceedings later.

In this sort of situation, providing no specific answer to the officer’s carefully crafted question is likely your best course of action. This allows for an explanation later, offering a plausible reason for the circumstances. Remember: you are not legally obligated to respond to these inquiries by the police, and exercising this right can be strategically advantageous.

More often than not, people realize the extent of their legal vulnerability only after the fact, typically once they’ve found themselves in handcuffs. I’ve seen it countless times and hope to steer you clear of it. I’m not suggesting you lie, but rather that you are as equally crafty with how you respond to the police as they are in asking you questions, ultimately providing yourself with an out that can serve you well later on.

For more information on Understanding DUI/DWI Charges in New York, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (845) 533-0265 today.

Randall Inniss, Esq.

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