In February 2021, New Jersey federal prosecutors dropped a DWI case against the singer, Bruce Springsteen, citing a lack of evidence. Claims of “liberal privilege” immediately appeared across social media. Indeed, if the defendant was Spring Brucesteen, authorities probably would not have backed off as quickly.
However, if anything, Springsteen’s celebrity status might have worked against him. A high-profile collar like this one makes quite a fish story. If you are a police officer, you do not want Bruce Springsteen to be the one that got away.
Very briefly, officers pulled Springsteen over as he rode his motorcycle in a New Jersey federal park. He told officers he had been drinking with fans in the Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook. At the station, Springsteen blew a .02. He was initially charged with DWI and reckless driving. Since .02 is well below the legal limit of .08, prosecutors dropped both charges. Instead, Springsteen pleaded guilty to drinking in a prohibited area. The judge ordered him to pay a $540 fine.
Ultimately, regardless of the defendant’s name, the outcome probably would have been roughly the same, given the facts as known. There are some takeaways here that a Rochester defense lawyer can apply to almost any DWI case, whether or not it involves a celebrity defendant and/or a chemical test.
Celebrities are not the only people who deal with overanxious officers. Regular people encounter these situations as well, especially in certain situations.
A STEP campaign (Selective Traffic Enforcement Program) is a good example. These local law enforcement initiatives usually have catchy nicknames, like “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and “Click It or Ticket.”
Grant money, usually from the state, funds these enhanced enforcement campaigns. This money covers things like officer overtime and other expenses. When the state spends money, the state expects results. Therefore, police supervisors often pressure STEP campaign patrol officers to arrest as many people as possible.
If the arresting officer was on STEP patrol instead of regular patrol, that fact could influence jurors. Once all the details emerge, many people believe the police were trying to railroad the defendant.
On a related note, Springsteen apparently refused to take a field Breathalyzer test. That’s his right, and your right, under the Fifth Amendment. However, as we’ve blogged about before, such a refusal almost guarantees your arrest, regardless of the evidence.
Rochester Defense Lawyers and Chemical Test Results
It’s very difficult to draw conclusions in this area given the limited information available. But something does not add up here.
Springsteen blew a .02 at the station. BAC levels vary significantly, according to weight, age, alcohol tolerance, and a number of other factors. Generally, however, a .02 is about the alcohol level of one or two beers. As most of us know from experience, a shot of tequila packs much more of a wallop than a can of beer. Additionally, Springsteen admitted to two small tequila shots. Human nature being what it is, he probably had more to drink than that.
Given these facts, it appears that the Breathalyzer was inaccurate, or the administrating officer mishandled the test. These issues happen much more frequently than authorities care to admit.
Breathalyzers are delicate devices. They must be frequently recalibrated and maintained. That’s especially true if officers use them a lot. And, a stationhouse Breathalyzer probably sees lots of use. Furthermore, a Breathalyzer’s technology is somewhat rudimentary. The Drunk-O-Meter, which was invented in the 1920s, used basically the same procedure as a Breathalyzer.
Police breathalyzer techs often take the stand and sing the praises of the latest and greatest Breathalyzer that the department uses. As a rule of thumb, the more bells and whistles a gadget has, the harder it is to operate. Furthermore, not all Breathalyzers are the same. The difference is often like the distinction between a Galaxy and an iPhone.
These issues are especially important in .08, .09, and other borderline BAC cases. In these situations, a small error makes a big difference. So, to seal the deal, a Rochester defense lawyer often partners with a chemist or other degreed professional who serves as an expert witness. These individuals have much more authority than the prosecutor’s police Breathalyzer technician.
Connect with an Aggressive Attorney
No matter what your name is, effective DWI defenses are usually available. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Rochester, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.
Two hundred fifty years ago, jury trials resolved almost all criminal matters in the United States. That’s no longer the case. But jury trials are still a unique pillar of our system. In fact, an estimated 90 percent of the world’s jury trials occur in the United States.
Like a bench trial and out-of-court settlement, other options were completely unavailable two hundred and fifty years ago. Now, one of these other options might be the best way to resolve a criminal case. They are certainly the most common criminal case endings in Monroe County.
Because of all these choices, you need a strong criminal defense attorney if you were arrested in Rochester NY. It all starts with a thorough case evaluation. Then, whatever option is best, an attorney can obtain the best possible result under the circumstances.
Is a Jury Trial Best?
Conventional wisdom states that you need two things to win a jury trial. You need a sympathetic defendant and a hook for the jury to hang its hat on.
There are several ways to make defendants sympathetic. The so-called “nerd defense” is a good example. Jurors have a more positive view of defendants who wear glasses, especially if the defendant is charged with a violent crime. In other cases, an attorney can cast the defendant as a good person who made a wrong choice and is apologetic. In a few cases, there is evidence that the police and/or prosecutor are trying to railroad the defendant.
There’s still the matter of a hook. Frequently, legal defense is available, but it was not strong enough to merit dismissal. For example, the evidence in a murder case might be largely circumstantial. That proof is theoretically enough to support a conviction. But it might not be enough to sway skeptical jurors.
Is a Bench Trial (Non-Jury Trial) Best?
Judges are people too. So, emotional appeals sometimes work. But for the most part, judges are also relatively dispassionate. So, a bench trial might be best if you only have a legal defense. That’s especially true if there was no pretrial dismissal hearing. If the judge has rejected the legal argument once, it’s doubtful that s/he will reverse course and embrace it.
Speed is sometimes a consideration as well. It used to be that many defendants waited more than a year for a jury trial. Since the days of gathering large numbers of jurors for multiple trials are over, the wait times are even longer now. The wait time for a bench trial date might be a few months or a few weeks if the defendant is in jail.
On a related note, jury trials are much more time-consuming. Therefore much more expensive than bench trials. A felony jury trial usually lasts at least several days. A felony bench trial might be over in a few hours.
Other Options if You Were Arrested in Rochester NY
Hybrid mini-trials are sometimes available in Monroe County. Attorneys for both sides make opening arguments. Then, jurors decide the case based solely on those arguments. A slow plea might be available as well. The defendant pleads guilty and asks jurors to assess punishment. Slow pleas are often a good idea if the defendant is sympathetic, but there is no legal hook.
Plea bargains resolve the vast majority of criminal cases in New York. A criminal defense attorney uses legal defenses or weaknesses in the state’s claim to obtain a favorable out-of-court settlement. The possibility of an adverse result at trial is usually enough to convince overworked prosecutors to make a deal. These settlements usually include reduced charges and/or a lighter sentence.
Reach Out to a Compassionate Attorney
If you were arrested in Rochester NY, you have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Rochester, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Convenient payment plans are available.
Considering direct and indirect costs, the average price of a DWI conviction in New York is about $15,000. The average cost of a felony DWI is usually even higher. Higher insurance rates account for much of this increase. DWI offenders must usually obtain high-risk SR-22 insurance and keep it for at least three years.
A DWI attorney in Rochester NY cannot change what insurance companies charge. But a DWI attorney can reduce or eliminate these expenses. As outlined below, effective DWI defenses are usually available. If the defense is strong enough, an attorney could get a not-guilty verdict at trial or even get the case thrown out of court. If the defense is not quite as strong, pretrial diversion might be an option. Monroe County is one of the only jurisdictions in the country where pretrial diversion is available in a felony DWI.
Possible Defenses with DWI Attorney Rochester NY
Lack of evidence is one of the most effective defenses in criminal cases. Frequently, there is a complete lack of evidence on one element of the offense.
“Asleep at the wheel” DWIs are a good example. Many people are surprised to learn that “driving” is not an element of “driving while intoxicated.” Prosecutors must only prove that the defendant was operating the vehicle. In some cases, the prosecutor might not even need to verify the car was running.
However, the state must always prove the car was drivable and the defendant intended to drive it. There is often no evidence of drivability. Most officers pay little or no attention to things like the vehicle’s condition or the gas amount in the tank. Furthermore, a person’s intent is always hard to prove, especially beyond a reasonable doubt, in situations like this one.
Other defenses are available, as well. An officer’s field sobriety test evaluation is usually completely one-sided. Furthermore, chemical tests, especially Breathalyzer tests, are far from 100 percent accurate and reliable.
Felony DWI Pretrial Diversion in Monroe County
If you face charges for a basic felony DWI (no accident or other aggravating circumstances, like a breath test refusal), you may be eligible for Monroe County’s DWI diversion program.
Most pretrial diversion programs result in a dismissal of charges if defendants complete a few simple program requirements. This program is different. Successful completion means prosecutors reduce the felony charges to a misdemeanor. Furthermore, the program requirements are rather strict. They include:
- Obtaining a substance abuse evaluation
- Surrendering your drivers’ license
- Abstaining from all drugs and alcohol
- Completing required substance abuse treatment
- Appearing in court periodically – typically every month
- Staying out of trouble
Most of these diversion programs last six months or a year. It’s not easy to abstain for a year. It’s also challenging to complete all these program requirements while you are unable to drive. Furthermore, some people have issues with alcohol evaluations. Many times, if the defendant says they do not have a problem with alcohol, the counselor believes the defendant is in denial. If you do not complete this program for any reason, the court will drop you, and all your efforts will amount to nothing.
All that being said, the payoff is significant. You will not have a felony on your record. Additionally, as mentioned, the costs of a misdemeanor DWI are much lower than felony costs. That’s especially true regarding indirect costs, such as your ability to get a job. So, you and your DWI attorney Rochester NY must carefully consider whether you are a good candidate for this program.
Although you avoid a felony conviction, you must plead guilty to a misdemeanor DWI as part of the arrangement. The judge will most likely sentence you to an additional three years’ probation.
Count on a Dedicated Attorney
If you are charged with felony DWI, you have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced DWI attorney in Rochester, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi.