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DWI Case Decided Involving Head Trauma Patient

According to a New York DWI Lawyer, in January 16, 2004 a man crashed his car into a parked car. When a police officer arrived at the scene, the man in the driver’s seat was unconscious. The officer tried for a few minutes to wake him. And when he had already wakened him, the man’s eyes were bloodshot and his pupils were dilated. The officer also observed that there was vomit on the passenger seat. When he tried to get out of the car, he was very unsteady on his feet.

The officer asked the man if he wanted to take a urine test. The police officer had concluded by then that the driver was not under the influence of alcohol but under the influence of drugs as the officer did not smell alcohol on the driver’s breath.

According to a New York DWI Lawyer, at the precinct, the officer asked the man once more if he wanted to take a urine test but the man refused. The officer filled out paper work that described the man as driving under the influence of drugs. The District Attorney indicted the driver with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

When the People had rested its presentation of evidence, the driver moved for a dismissal of the criminal indictment as he claims that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt: the prosecution failed to prove that he was driving under the influence of alcohol. The driver did not present any evidence in his behalf.

The only question to be decided by the Supreme Court was whether or not the District Attorney succeeded in proving the driver’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt; that is, whether the prosecution produced substantial evidence to find that the driver was indeed driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The Court first observed that the Vehicle and Traffic Law names the crime as “operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.” It behooved the Court then to determine whether the term “intoxicated” referred only to alcohol or if it also comprehended drugs and other substances. The implication is that, if the term “intoxicated” referred only to alcohol and not to drugs, then the driver cannot be convicted as the charge brought by the District Attorney was for driving while under the influence of alcohol. And if this is so, then the driver must be acquitted.

The Court decided to trace the historical development of the law in order to determine what exactly the legislature intended the word “intoxicated” to mean. The Court referred to a case decided by the Supreme Court in 1901 long before any law had been passed making it a criminal act to drive while under the influence of any substance. In that 1901 case, the Court came to the conclusion that “intoxication” and “drunkenness” were synonyms.

A Nassau County DWI Lawyer explained that the Court explained that the first law was passed by the legislature of New York in 1910 and it punished any one who was found driving while intoxicated. In 1919, the Appellate Division of the Court then defined the word “intoxicated” to mean a state produced by drinking too much alcohol.

In 1929, the legislature amended the law and called it the Highway Law but the term used was still “intoxicated.” In 1941, the State Legislature overhauled the entire law and came up with the Vehicle and Traffic Law. This law allowed the courts to admit evidence of the amount of blood alcohol of the accused to prove that he was intoxicated.

In 1960 the law was again amended. This time, the level of alcohol in the blood that was over .10% was considered as intoxicated. Thus, from this provision, it can easily be inferred that only driving while under intoxicated with alcohol was the only punishable act.

It was only in 1966 when the legislature finally included a provision prohibiting anyone from operating a motor vehicle while a driver’s ability was impaired by the use of a drug. This crime was defined is a separate paragraph as the crime of driving while intoxicated with alcohol.
In 1970, another amendment was made in the Vehicle and Traffic Law. This time, four crimes were defined: operating a motor vehicle with blood alcohol level of 0.15%; driving while ability is impaired; driving while intoxicated; and driving while ability is impaired by drugs.

The law has been amended since then, mainly fixing the blood alcohol level for intoxication at 0.08%. But the definitions of the crime are the same and have not been changed. With the tracing of the development of the definition of the crimes, it is clear that driving while intoxicated can only mean driving under the influence of alcohol. If the accused were driving under the influence of drugs, he should have been charged under another paragraph and the crime would have been charged as operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs.

The driver’s conviction is overturned and set aside. The criminal charges against him are dismissed.

Bloodshot eyes and dilation of pupils can mean intoxication, and it can also mean drug use, but then again, it could mean that the driver was suffering from head trauma. How can you use this doubt to your advantage when you are charged with driving while intoxicated? You need a attorney to help you achieve reasonable doubt. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, their ably trained lawyers are ready to do research and to present evidence that may exculpate you. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates and confer with a awyer now and protect yourself from a criminal conviction that will mark you for life when your symptoms could have been from intoxication with alcohol, impairment with drugs or from head trauma.

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