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Court Rules on DWI matter

A driver was involved in a one-car accident in Albany County. The car he was driving left the highway and struck a tree. As the result of investigation, officers of the defendant Town Police Department went to the hospital to issue the plaintiff driver his appearance tickets charging him of DWI (driving while intoxicated), operating an unregistered vehicle and driving at a speed not reasonable and prudent. A New York DWI Lawyer said that a blood sample was taken from the plaintiff to determine his blood alcohol content, which later proved to be negative. Consequently, the charges against the driver were dismissed. Thereafter, the driver commenced a legal action against the defendant Town, the police department and the Police Officer for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. The defendants answered and moved for dismissal of the charges. In opposition to the motions, the driver conceded that his claim for false imprisonment did not lie, but contended that his malicious prosecution claim was viable because the defendants lacked probable cause to initiate the criminal proceeding which was terminated in his favor. The Supreme Court granted the defendants’ motions and an appeal proceeded.

A New York DWI Lawyer explained that elements of an action for malicious prosecution are initiation of a proceeding without probable cause. Records show that the defendants submitted their testimony and affidavits of the police officers who were dispatched to the accident scene. The testimony and affidavits claim that the driver was observed to be somewhat incoherent, and that they detected a faint odor of alcohol emanating from him. When they asked the driver whether he had been drinking, the driver responded that he did not drink much. The police officers further alleged that the driver’s automobile had failed to negotiate a curve at the accident site and that the road surface was dry and free of any defects where the vehicle had left the road. Based upon the facts, the police officers asserted that there existed probable cause to issue the appearance tickets in question.

In opposition to the motion, the driver asserted that he had consumed no alcoholic beverages on the day of the accident, a fact confirmed by the results of his blood alcohol analysis, and that the accident resulted when he leaned over to pick up a cigarette that he had dropped. As to his alleged conversation with the police concerning his alcohol consumption, the driver alleged that he had no recollection of events from the time of the collision until he regained consciousness in the hospital two months later. A Nassau County Criminal Lawyer said that it appears that there are questions of fact as to whether probable cause existed for the issuance of the appearance ticket for driving while intoxicated. Notably, the driver’s alleged admission that he had not drunk much on the day of the accident was a matter solely within the knowledge of the moving parties, given the driver’s lack of recollection of events following the accident, and should not form the basis for dismissal.

It follows that there is a question of fact concerning the issue of malice. If, on trial, the fact finder discredits the police officers’ statements that they detected an odor of alcohol emanating from the driver and that the driver stated that he had not been drinking much, then he would be entitled to a charge that the fact finder might conclude that the felonious proceeding was instituted maliciously.

The Supreme Court agrees that there is a question of fact as to whether the proceedings were terminated in the plaintiff’s favor. The defendants presented no evidence that the proceedings were not terminated in his favor and he was not required to come forward with any proof. Nevertheless, the defendants rely on a statement in the plaintiff’s affidavit that the appearance tickets were dismissed in the interest of justice. A dismissal in the interest of justice is not sufficient to sustain a cause of action to recover damages for malicious prosecution. Such a dismissal would not have been pursuant to the law since the law refers to misdemeanor complaint and would not include the appearance tickets in question.

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