NYS DWI car accident

A lawsuit filed in Greece, NY sparked a renewed bill proposal in the State Senate, pushing for mandatory DWI testing after a serious car accident. Parents of a teenager killed in a serious auto accident in 2005 filed the federal lawsuit in November 2013. The couple is suing the Town of Greece and the Greece Police Department for the way it handled the accident, and ensuing investigation. The lawsuit claims that the police should have administered chemical tests for alcohol and/or drugs on the drivers involved in the fatal 2005 crash. Currently New York does not require officers to take such steps. However, following the couple’s lawsuit, a proposed Senate bill is pushing for a revision of the law.

First proposed in 2013, Bill S1446 would require chemical testing of breath, blood, or urine “in the event of a motor vehicle collision resulting in death or injury.” In March 2014, the bill passed the State Senate. Bill sponsor Senator John Flanagan (R-C-I, East Northport) said of the proposed law, “Every driver who makes the choice to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol must be fully held accountable for their actions…This bill provides police and prosecutors with the tools they need to better safeguard our roadways and help save innocent lives throughout our state.” Proponents of the bill hope it will provide strong evidence against intoxicated drivers that could potentially be used in criminal cases where serious injuries or death have been sustained in a crash.

Currently, police officers have the discretion of whether to administer chemical tests after an accident. Administering chemical tests, such as breathalyzer tests, are common practice when a driver is suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI). Drivers who refuse such chemical tests can be charged for their refusal.  The charge, DWI Chemical Test Refusal, can result in a license revocation of 12 to 18 months and a fine of up to $750 upon conviction.

Additionally, a driver suspected of DWI who refuses a chemical test can be charged with a “Common Law” DWI. This type of DWI alleges intoxication based on the totality of the circumstances, and evidence can include police officer observations, field sobriety test results, the presence of alcohol, and many other factors. Conviction for Common Law DWI is a misdemeanor conviction resulting in a permanent criminal record.

Though the bill would allow for different types of chemical testing, the most common chemical test is the breath test, or breathalyzer. This test can often lead to erroneous results because breathalyzers do not account for mitigating factors that could influence BAC readings. A driver’s age, weight, and medication consumption, among other factors, could influence a breathalyzer test reading. User error can also impact breathalyzer test results, resulting in flawed “evidence” against the suspected driver. Right now, the Senate bill does not address these common chemical test errors. Instead, the bill is strongly seeking new ways to introduce evidence against allegedly intoxicated drivers regardless of whether such evidence was the result of faulty testing. The State Assembly is now considering the proposed law.

DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem.