Queens County Bar Association
Martindale Hubbell - Distinguished 2023

Can You Give Me a Brief Timeline of the DWI Process?

A DWI timeline goes pretty much like this. Most cases originate where an officer sees a car driving erratically or committing a traffic infraction and pulls the vehicle over. Sometimes officers do not even suspect that the driver was intoxicated when the make the stop. At the point that he pulls them over and asks for the license and registration, he is going to observe the individuals response time. He may smell alcohol on the breath, the driver’s speech may be slurred, his eyes bloodshot and he just seems not to know what he is doing, and at this time the officer suspects that he is intoxicated. At that point, the officer will ask the person to get out of the car, he may ask him if he had been drinking. This is not a question that you are required to answer, but most people will say something that they think is innocuous like, “Well, I had one or two beers!”

At that point the officer will conduct certain field tests where he can observe the driver’s eyes. He may look at his coordination and do what is called a field alcohol test. That test is not known to be terribly accurate, but it will show whether the person had been drinking. If all those things add together, then that gives the officer probable cause to place him under arrest. The driver will not be taken to the precinct unless he has already been placed under arrest. In Queens County, it is always the 112 precinct where all breathalyzer tests are administered. At that point, he will encounter another officer and they will question the driver and ask him to take the breathalyzer test.

This is a critical point because the driver will also be informed that if he does not take the breathalyzer test, that his license will be revoked by the Motor Vehicle Bureau. For most drivers, they are better off taking the test. If the test comes back with more than 0.08%, he is going to be charged with DWI. If the test comes back below 0.08%, he may still be charged with a different form of a DWI just based on the officer’s observations and, if the reading is above 0.05, will also include a charge of driving while impaired. They are supposed to at that point, also give you coordination tests. Many times the police for expedience will not give that test and claim that the driver refused or that the IDTU room was too crowded.

If you think you are in very good condition, you should insist on doing the coordination test because my experience is most people, unless they are really drunk, do very well on the coordination test by the time they get to the precinct. So if the officer is not asking you about taking it, try to ask him, “Hey, what about the coordination test” if you know enough to do so. After that happens, the driver will ultimately be taken to court for the first time to be arraigned on charges. That is the first time usually that he will encounter an attorney. Hopefully his family has hired an attorney, because that is an important point. If the defendant does not have his own attorney, the court will assign one at least for the arraignment and at that point, the judge will decide whether or not he should be released or released without bail.

Most times, defendants in these cases, at least in Queens, are released without bail. There are some other procedures which may come in to play which we may discuss late. After the person is arraigned, the case will proceed through the criminal court system.

What Are The Driver’s License Consequences Associated With A DWI Conviction?

What happens depends on the circumstances of the arrest. If the defendant has a blood alcohol content above 0.08% which makes it a DWI under VTL 1192.2, the judge must suspend his driver’s license right then and there. His license will have to be surrendered if it has not already. At that point he will have his license suspended for the duration of the case no matter how long the case takes. There is a circumstance that many lawyers are not aware of, but it is possible to get a hardship license issued by the court at that time. It must be done within three days of the arraignment and there are very specific requirements that must be met for the Court to even consider granting a hardship license. To wit, there must be physical evidence in support of the defendant’s absolute need for a driver’s license such as he has to take his mother to the hospital every few days for dialysis or something like that, and you must have documentation to prove this point. It is very rarely done successfully. Many lawyers do not even know about it and judges are very reluctant to give a hardship license out. If we are properly prepared, we can get it for some people.

The other circumstance is if you refuse to take the breathalyzer test, and there is no BAC reading, then you will not have your license taken at that time. The statute does not provide for it. What instead will happen is that you will be given a notice to have a hearing within a very short time before the Motor Vehicle Bureau in a totally separate proceeding. At this point, the Motor Vehicle Bureau will seek to take the driver’s license because of the refusal to take the breathalyzer test. They get you coming and going. Sometimes, a knowledgeable attorney can prevent your license being suspended or revoked by the Motor Vehicle Bureau and, in most cases, can delay an such action for several months.

For more information on Timeline OF DWI Process, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (718) 793-5700 today.

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