The direct and indirect effects of a first-time DWI could devastate your family. A DUI conviction usually triples auto insurance rates, burdening stressed households more. Furthermore, a DUI conviction makes it harder to earn money. Employers often avoid people with DUI convictions like the plague. To reduce or avoid these consequences, a first-time DWI defense attorney aggressively attacks the state’s evidence, especially chemical test evidence.

The DWI conviction rate is much lower if the state cannot use Breathalyzer or other chemical test results.[1] Once prosecutors lose their edge and don’t feel as good about their chances at trial, they usually agree to favorable plea deals. This deal could include a plea to reckless driving or another non-DWI offense.

Procedural Defenses

The aggressive attack strategy begins before the defendant blows into a Breathalyzer and even before the police officer asks the dreaded “Sir/Ma’am, have you been drinking?” question.

Generally, the reasonable suspicion rule applies to law enforcement stops. Reasonable suspicion is an evidence-based hunch of criminal activity. That criminal activity could be unrelated to DWI, like speeding or making an illegal turn.

Officers have broad legal powers at this stage, but this power is not unlimited. Furtive movements are a good example. If drivers act nervous when they see squad cars in their rearview mirrors, this behavior is suspicious. However, courts have consistently held that this behavior doesn’t satisfy the reasonable suspicion requirement.

The preliminary DWI investigation usually comes next. However, before officers pop the question, they need more evidence of alcohol impairment, such as:

  • Slurred speech,
  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Slow reflexes,
  • Unsteady balance, and
  • The odor of alcohol.

Sometimes, officers rush through the investigation to reach the next stage. That’s especially true if the officer was on DWI patrol or another special duty.

Intoxication Defenses

Over 80 percent of DWI defendants provide a breath or blood sample.[2] So, in most cases, attacking the evidence means attacking chemical test results.

The Breathalyzer is an updated and miniaturized Drunk-o-Meter, a contraption that scientists invented in the 1920s. Because it’s based on such old technology, Breathalyzers have some major technical issues, such as:

  • Calibration: Advanced devices require considerable maintenance. For example, temperature changes affect Breathalyzer results. Outside temperatures sometimes change quickly in upstate New York. If the Breathalyzer wasn’t correctly calibrated, the results could be inaccurate.
  • Mouth Alcohol: Alcohol upsets stomachs. When people burp or vomit, alcohol particles in the stomach flood the mouth. So, the subject’s breath alcohol level is higher than the subject’s blood alcohol level, which is the legal standard in New York.
  • Unabsorbed Alcohol: Similarly, alcohol parks in the stomach and moves through the liver before it enters the bloodstream. Because of this delay, if the subject had anything to drink in the last hour or so, that alcohol hadn’t entered the blood.

A first-time DWI defense attorney often partners with a degreed chemist or professional to drive these points home with jurors.

Blood tests are much more accurate than breath tests. However, the samples often have chain of custody issues. At the minimum, the samples go from the subject to a police lab to an evidence room to a courtroom. That’s a lot of moving parts.

If the defendant refuses to provide a chemical sample, prosecutors must rely on circumstantial evidence, such as physical symptoms.

These symptoms are usually sufficient to prove probable cause, which is the amount of proof needed to support an arrest. But these symptoms don’t prove intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt. Usually, they only prove consumption. An odor of alcohol doesn’t even prove consumption. Usually, it just proves the defendant was near someone drinking.

Contact a Top DWI Attorney in Rochester

First-time criminal offenders have essential rights. Contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi for a free consultation with an experienced DWI defense lawyer in Rochester. Convenient payment plans are available.





The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

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