If you've been arrested for a DWI in Poughkeepsie, you're not alone. Each year, thousands of individuals are arrested for impaired or intoxicated driving in Dutchess County. DWI charges are serious and carry serious penalties, but having information about the charges against you and potential next steps in your DWI case may help you feel more confident about resolving the charges against you. This article discusses the basics of your Poughkeepsie DWI case, including New York criminal law and procedure applicable to your case.
Under New York DWI laws, driving a vehicle after drinking alcohol or taking drugs that impair your driving ability is illegal. A law enforcement officer must have probable cause to arrest you. Therefore, most DWI arrests depend on an officer observing an individual for impairment and measuring an individual's blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
If a law enforcement officer suspects that you're driving while intoxicated, whether before or after he has stopped you, he will likely ask you to exit the vehicle for field sobriety tests, designed to allow the officer to observe your level of impairment. Then, an officer will likely ask you to take a hand-held breath test to measure your BAC.
If your BAC is over the legal limit (.08% for adults over 21, .02% for people under 21, and .04% for commercial drivers), the officer will arrest you on DWI charges. The officer may also choose to arrest you without a breath test if you refuse the test or are unable to complete it, or if you are obviously impaired and your impairment may be due to something besides alcohol.
Booking, Bail, and Release
After your arrest, you'll likely be taken to the Duchess County Jail where you'll be "booked." An officer will take your biographical information, fingerprint you and photograph you. The officer will also take any personal items and store them until your release.
After reviewing the evidence and charges against you, a magistrate will set an amount for bail. If you're being charged with a less serious DWI, such as a first time offense with a low BAC, you will likely be released on your own recognizance, meaning you promise to appear at your hearing and you don't have to pay bail. If the magistrate decides that you are a flight risk or the charges against you are more serious, you may be required to post 10% of your total bail before you can be released.
Your arraignment, which is your first appearance in court after you've been charged with a crime, will generally take place within two weeks of your arrest (or sooner, if you have not been released on bail). At the arraignment, a judge will advise you of the charges against you and potential penalties should you be found guilty of the charges. The judge will ask if you have an attorney, and if you cannot afford an attorney, the state will appoint a Duchess County public defender to your case. You will then plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. One of best ways to fight a DWI case is to hire a skilled Poughkeepsie DWI attorney.
DMV Suspension of Driving Privileges
If you failed a chemical breath or blood test, the judge is also required to issue a "suspension pending prosecution" at your arraignment. The New York DMV will suspend your driver's license until the charges against you are resolved via a guilty plea or trial. If you're convicted of the DWI charges against you, your license will be suspended for anywhere from 90 days to several years depending on the nature of the offense.
Once the "suspension pending prosecution" has been in place for 30 days, defendants facing trial for DWI charges may apply for a pre-conviction conditional license that allows them to drive when necessary, such as to and from work, or to school and doctor appointments.
Pre-Trial Conferences and Motions
After your arraignment, you will meet with your attorney to discuss your case. Your attorney will, if possible, gather as much evidence as possible in order to fight the charges against you. This may include evidence of an unlawful stop or arrest or mishandling of BAC testing. Your attorney may make certain motions on your behalf, including a motion to dismiss the case, motions to exclude evidence, and motions to compel the prosecution to provide evidence.
Before your trial, your attorney will also meet with the prosecution for a pre-trial conference. At the pre-trial conference, both sides will discuss the case and negotiate the terms of a plea agreement. In New York, there are limitations on plea bargains in DWI cases. For example, a charge of Aggravated DWI generally cannot be reduced below a regular DWI charge via a plea agreement. However, there is an exception if the prosecution feels that there is good cause to reduce the charges in order to elicit a guilty plea, such as when evidence shows that the arresting officer did not follow proper procedures during the stop and arrest of the defendant.
If your case is not resolved through a plea agreement or pre-trial motions, it will culminate in a criminal trial. During the trial, your defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney will each make opening statements, present evidence, call and cross examine witnesses, and make close statements.
Under the New York Constitution, you are entitled to a trial by jury if you're charged with a crime that is not a petty offense. The judge will give jury instructions regarding what the jury must find in order to convict you of the crime. The jury will then exit the courtroom and deliberate privately until it reaches a verdict.
If the jury verdict is not guilty, you will be free to leave. If the verdict is guilty, you will be sentenced in a sentencing hearing, which generally takes place directly after the jury announces a guilty verdict.
Different types of DWI crimes carry different possible penalties. The penalty for a first time DWI with a BAC of 0.08 and higher for an adult over 21 is:
Check out the New York DMV's chart of possible penalties for other DWI charges. You can also visit FindLaw's section on DUI Law for a wealth of information about DUI charges that may be applicable to your Poughkeepsie DWI case.
Contact a qualified attorney.