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Understanding New York's implied consent law

Many New York motorists who are stopped under suspicion of driving while intoxicated wonder if they can refuse a police officer's request to submit to a breath or blood test. The simple answer is "yes," but the refusal to submit to such a test may have other negative consequences.

In New York (and almost all of the remaining 50 states), the right to drive a car is a privilege that is subject to several conditions and limitations. One of the most important such restrictions is the so-called "implied consent" to submit to a test that measures the amount of alcohol in a person's blood stream (BAC level). By obtaining a drivers' license and operating a motor vehicle within the state, a driver is legally presumed to have impliedly consented to take a BAC test if he or she is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

A person may refuse to take a breath test or have a blood sample drawn, but in either case, the implied consent law requires that the person's drivers' license be automatically suspended for a period of six months. The court may also impose a $500 fine. When compared to the possible penalties that can be imposed for a DUI conviction, such a penalty may not seem very harsh. However, even if a blood test is refused, the police may still charge the driver with one or more crimes related to DUI based upon other evidence, such as speeding, weaving from lane to lane, alcoholic smell, inability to stand or walk or other indicia of intoxication.

Anyone who is accused of a DUI crime may wish to consult a lawyer who is experienced in defending such charges. Such a consultation can provide a helpful evaluation of the law and facts that govern the case and an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining an outright conviction.

Source: Findlaw, "Implied Consent Laws," accessed on March 12, 2017

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