Getting Covid-19 puts you at risk of being incorrectly charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI), which is why it’s good to have a DWI attorney in Rochester NY in mind.
How Covid-19 and a DWI Attorney in Rochester NY Are Linked
2020 was a year like no other in many ways, including DWI arrests. The lockdowns in the first half of 2020 reduced DWI arrests to almost nothing. Then, in the second half of the year, DWI arrests shot up at an unprecedented rate. The overall effect was that, shockingly, authorities made more DWI arrests in 2020 than they made in 2019.
As we’ll explore later, coronavirus has changed the way peace officers enforce traffic laws, including DWI. Just as COVID-19 seems to be permanent, it appears that these changes to DWI enforcement may also have changed for good.
Pandemic or not, DWI is one of the most frightening criminal cases in New York. The direct consequences are bad, and the indirect consequences are often even worse. A Rochester DWI lawyer can reduce or eliminate these effects. These prosecutions have a lot of moving parts, especially during the coronavirus era. So, these charges are often difficult to prove in court.
Believe it or not, “driving” is not an element of “driving while intoxicated.” In New York and most other states, this offense is really OWI (Operating While Intoxicated). Even if the defendant is literally asleep at the wheel, prosecutors could convict the defendant of DWI if the car is in drivable shape and the defendant has the keys.
Many law enforcement agencies have limited personal contact because of coronavirus. For example, instead of pulling over a motorist for speeding, an officer might simply follow the motorist and run a check for outstanding warrants. So, if a defendant is not an active hazard, many officers think twice before making an arrest.
There are some other factors as well. These defendants are often very disoriented, so a high percentage of these stops end badly for everyone involved. The tragic Rayshard Brooks shooting is a good example. This specific issue dovetails with a general trend: the public’s eroding confidence in police officers. Nowadays, many jurors view non-driving DWI stops as little more than police harassment.
Furthermore, these cases often have legal issues. Frequently, as in the Brooks case, an anonymous tipster provides the police with information about the suspect. Many Monroe County judges consider these tips unreliable. If the reporting person doesn’t vouch for the information provided, a judge might not feel much differently.
COVID-19 could also affect these offenses. This illness, and its effects, sometimes taints the evidence in a DWI case.
Coronavirus is primarily a physical illness. But it has some mental effects as well. As a result, a Field Sobriety Test, which measures physical and mental ability, could be skewed. Some defendants with mild coronavirus cases or COVID-19 long-haul symptoms could have problems following directions or balance issues.
These effects could include chemical tests as well. Body temperature affects Breathalyzer results. As a rule of thumb, every four-tenths above average body temperature drives up the BAC estimate by about one-tenth of a percent. So, if Dan has a 99-degree temperature (.4 above average) and blows a .08, his actual BAC level could be .07, which is below the legal limit.
COVID-19, Criminal Procedure, and Rochester DWI Lawyers
In conclusion, we should briefly look at how coronavirus has changed criminal court procedures, including DWIs, in Monroe County and elsewhere.
Longer wait times for jury trials are a good example. In ye olden days, many defendants waited a year or more for a jury trial date. Because of the coronavirus backlog and a smaller number of potential jurors due to social distancing, that wait could now be more like two years, in some cases.
Many prosecutors do not want these cases on their desks for that long, so they are more willing to make favorable deals. Furthermore, delay always hurts the party with the burden of proof, which in this case is the state. Over time, physical evidence often gets lost, and witness memories fade.
Contact a Dedicated DWI Attorney in Rochester NY
COVID-19 has changed criminal law enforcement and prosecution. These changes might be permanent. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester DWI lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Convenient payment plans are available.