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Officer causes accident, charged with drunk driving and speeding

The DWI defendant is entitled to a vigorous defense in court just like any other individual accused of crime. Attorneys who are experienced in this area of New York criminal law are familiar with a variety of defenses applicable in drunk driving cases. DWI defense counsel are also adept at negotiating plea agreements that contain appropriate concessions for contrite defendants who are intent on cooperating and seeking rehabilitative services.

However, when the defendant is himself a police officer, that may sometimes call for a different approach to defending the case. The problem is whether the outcome of the case may allow the officer to resume his or her duties at a future time, with appropriate conditions. It may, therefore, not always be a prudent strategy for a police officer to aggressively defend a case of drunk driving, especially if the evidence is strong and appears to support a conviction.

Recently, a part-time police officer in Lewiston and Niagara was arrested on drunk driving and speeding charges. State troopers allege that the defendant struck two cars that were stopped at a red light. He failed a field sobriety test and scored a 0.14 percent reading on a Breathalyzer test. Initially, there do not appear to be any significant defenses to the charges, in light of there being witnesses and an accident with reported injuries.

If defense counsel concludes that there are no viable defenses to the drunk driving charge and determines that the evidence is overwhelmingly against the defendant, the best approach may be to negotiate early for a plea agreement. In this case, the accused may escape a prison sentence on a first offense but will automatically lose his license for a minimum period of six months under New York law. The best strategy may be to offer early cooperation, voluntary entrance into sobriety programs and a negotiated plea that may potentially allow for resumption of the man's job at some future time. The police chief of one of the towns that employed him stated that he was an outstanding officer who did an excellent job, which may help defense counsel to construct a positive outcome to the matter.

Source: niagara-gazette.com, "Part-time police officer in Lewiston, Town of Niagara arrested for DWI", Dec. 15, 2015

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