If you’re planning to celebrate the New Year but concerned about legal consequences of impaired decision-making, you’ll want to keep in mind an experienced Rochester DWI attorney. The 2021 holiday season promises to be the most normal one we’ve had in a while, so it’s understandable to want to let loose. Hopefully, that doesn’t include drinking and driving under the influence, but we all know how alcohol inhibits our better judgment.
Even before the pandemic hit, the statistics regarding New Year’s Eve alcohol consumption were sobering (pardon the pun):
- 50% of people consumed alcohol during family holiday parties, primarily to reduce the stress and anxiety such gatherings often entail,
- 24% experienced blackouts,
- 16% said alcohol prompted them to say or do things they regret (the specifics should not be printed on a family-friendly website), and
- 13% picked up a DWI charge.
Frequently, New Year’s Eve DWIs also have some unique legal issues. These issues, along with the inherent weaknesses in many of these cases, often mean that a Rochester DWI attorney can successfully resolve even the scariest and most complex matters.
Common Defenses a Rochester DWI Attorney May Use
Frequently, intoxication, or the lack thereof, is the only material issue in a DWI case. Going by the book, intoxication is relatively easy to prove in New York. The Empire State has a per se DWI law. But the evidence available is not always solid.
Breathalyzers are sophisticated devices, but they are not flawless. Temperature sensitivity is often an issue during the winter. Some police departments only calibrate their Breathalyzers once every sixty days. There’s a big difference between the weather in October and December in upstate New York. Individual temperature sometimes comes into play as well. A three-degree fever can drive a Breathalyzer result several points higher.
If the state must rely on circumstantial evidence from the Field Sobriety Tests, which it must in about a fifth of cases, the evidence issues are even more acute. The notorious walking-a-straight-line test is a good example. It’s challenging to walk a line heel to toe as distractions abound, such as strobe lights flashing in the background. Additionally, it is almost impossible to walk an imaginary line heel to toe, whether the subject is drunk or sober.
Sobriety checkpoints are pretty standard in Monroe County around holidays associated with drinking and driving, such as New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. Officers do not need reasonable suspicion to detain motorists if the DWI roadblock meets specific legal requirements, such as:
- A supervisor-level decision to set up a roadblock,
- A safe location, like a non-intersection on a surface street,
- Pre-checkpoint publicity that creates general awareness about the roadblock,
- Adequate signage preceding the checkpoint, and
- A neutral detention formula, such as every third or fourth vehicle.
Motorists have rights at checkpoints as well. They need not answer questions or even roll down their windows. Police officers usually shadow such motorists for at least several blocks, so be advised.
Holiday STEP Campaigns
Selective Traffic Enforcement Programs, which usually have catchy marketing names like “Click It or Ticket” and “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” are also common during the holidays. Usually, government grants pay for officer overtime and other STEP-related expenses. Since many officers feel real or imaginary pressure to make as many arrests as possible to justify the funding, some officers occasionally take shortcuts.
Common shortcuts include a lack of reasonable suspicion for the stop and a lack of probable cause for the arrest. Reasonable suspicion is an evidence-based hunch of criminal activity. A hunch alone, such as a driver who didn’t look right or just left a bar, does not hold up in court.
The aforementioned field sobriety tests usually serve as probable cause. During STEP campaigns, officers sometimes skip straight to the arrest without using the FSTs. Marijuana is legal in New York, but only under certain circumstances.
Get a Rochester DWI Attorney on Your Side
For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester DWI attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.