New York Breathalyzer test refusal charged against politician

A town councilman in upstate New York has been arrested on driving while intoxicated allegations. The traffic stop and the events that followed raise some important legal issues regard DWI charges in general, and a Breathalyzer test refusal in particular. The man, a 45-year-old Saranac Lake resident, was arraigned on several criminal charges related to DWI, including a separate criminal charge for having refused a Breathalyzer test.

The incident apparently occurred on the last Tuesday in June at night. The councilman is accused of ignoring a four-way stop. A local police sergeant performed a traffic stop and reportedly smelled the odor of alcohol coming from the councilman's car. Thereafter, the officer requested that the man perform several field sobriety tests. Those tests apparently included standing on one leg for an unspecified period of time and walking in a straight line, and though the officer indicated the tests were "failed," no other specifics were provided.

At the station house, police reportedly sought to administer a Breathalyzer test. The accused man apparently refused -- as was his right. However, that alleged refusal resulted in an additional criminal charge against him. It will also trigger a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing that could result in the suspension of his driver's license if the allegations are confirmed by competent and relevant evidence.

As this case now heads to a criminal courtroom in New York, the councilman will likely need to defend himself in the court of public opinion as well as before a judge. Nevertheless, the burden of proof in court is on the prosecution, and the fact that there is no blood alcohol evidence makes that burden all the more difficult. While a Breathalyzer test refusal -- if established in court -- may lead to criminal penalties on its own, the councilman has every right to challenge the testimony of the police officer and to otherwise fight to protect his legal rights while seeking the most favorable result possible.

Source: Adirondack Daily Enterprise, "Harrietstown councilman charged with DWI," Chris Knight, June 28, 2013

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