Anyone who has ever been pulled over by a police officer likely experienced feelings of anxiety and even fear. In cases where being pulled over is followed by an officer requesting that a driver exit his or her motor vehicle and submit to a series of field sobriety tests, one's anxiety level is likely to skyrocket. This is especially true in cases where an individual has previously been convicted of drunk driving or registers a blood alcohol limit of .18 or higher.
When you have a deeper understanding of criminal law like our Poughkeepsie readers do, you tend to look at news stories differently than most New York residents. While many writers try to look at criminal cases objectively, other writers may try to put a spin on a case as a way to sway public opinion. Sometimes, a writer's efforts fall on deaf ears. But sometimes it works, perhaps even leading to public opinion that has less to do with justice and more to do with shaming the courts into ignoring a person's civil rights.
When most people think of the term "felony DUI," they probably think of multiple DUIs on a person's driving record. That's because here in New York, as well as in other states, successive DUI convictions are treated as felonies, meaning steeper penalties for those who are accused. But here in New York, this isn't the only way in which a person could face a felony DUI charge.
For a lot of people, getting your first DUI can leave you crestfallen. That's because you were probably told or already knew that a DUI stays on your criminal record for 10 years. If you receive any subsequent DUIs within this time frame, they become felony charges, which can have an even more substantial effect on your life. (You can read more about felony DUIs in our February post.)
If you're like a lot of our readers who have received a DWI in their lifetime, you probably don't want to incur another drunk-driving conviction. That's because you likely know that multiple DWI convictions can escalate penalties and can even lead to time in a state prison. Most people want to avoid this negative outcome, which oftentimes means learning as much as they can about the law so that they don't violate it down the road.
Even though we all know it's wrong and incredibly dangerous, drunk driving continues to be a serious problem across the United States. In a number of cases, one DUI can lead to another and perhaps even another. Here in New York, the severity of drunk-driving charges increases the more DUIs you have on your record, leading to higher fines and more time in jail. If you asked most people, they would tell you that these are not consequences they would ever want to face.
Here in the United States, drunk driving is seen as an epidemic that kills hundreds, if not thousands, of people every year. To protect other drivers and hold those who choose to make this reckless decision accountable for their actions, policy makers across the nation have enacted laws designed to prevent further alcohol-related traffic accidents.
No two legal cases are ever alike. This is a point we attempt to make often because it is so true. Because of that fact, we can never say with certainty that we will get a defendant cleared of charges. Indeed, because of the way the legal system works, we can't even be sure from case to case how matters will be handled by the prosecution.
Even if you have never had a run-in with the law in New York you are probably aware that the onus is on the state to prove any allegations of a crime that it brings. That is, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is true whether the accusation is for something as minor as jaywalking or as serious as a felony charge.
An arrest for alleged drunk driving is not something that should be taken lightly. If the authorities allege aggravating circumstances, as might be allowed under the provisions of New York's Leandra's Law, the implications become even more serious. Consulting with an attorney is recommended in either case to be sure you know your rights.