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A Manhattan DWI Lawyer explains the law around refusing a DWI sobriety test in New York State.

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC, one of the most commonly asked questions each Manhattan DWI Lawyer on our team is asked is this: What can happen to me if I refuse to take a breathalyzer test? At no cost, we're available to give you answers to this for free, and also to help prepare you to defend yourself against DWI charges you may face from the Office of the District Attorney in Manhattan.

In New York State, driving has been deemed not a right, but instead a privilege. This means that when you receive a driver's license, you agree to follow the rules that the state of New York attaches to that license. Any New York Criminal Lawyer will tell you this law applies to all Counties (i.e. Suffolk County, Nassau County, etc) and Boroughs (i.e. Queens, Brooklyn, etc) regardless of the county One of those rules is the law mandating that, when you are stopped by a law enforcement official of New York, you must subject yourself to a breathalyzer test. A Manhattan DWI Lawyer will explain to you that if you refuse to take the breathalyzer, this in itself is not something that can be considered a criminal behavior or construed as an admission of guilt. However, this does not mean that your refusal is without risk. In fact, your refusal of a breathalyzer can result in serious consequences, including the revocation of your driver's license for a minimum of 12 months (and possibly longer for a commercial driver). Additionally, there can be a fine for reapplying for your license. And if your refusal comes within 5 years of a prior conviction for a DWI–related offense, there may be a mandatory one–year revocation of your license along with a re–application fee.

The procedure for suspending your driver's license is as follows:

  • At your arraignment, the judge can suspend your license because of your breathalyzer refusal.
  • A suspension will generally stand pending a DMV hearing, which will typically occur within 15 days of your arraignment.
  • The DMV hearing is an administrative proceeding to which you may be entitled if it is the first time that you have refused a breathalyzer. In it, the police testify about the events surrounding your refusal. The police must prove that they requested that you take the breathalyzer, as well as that you declined to do so. The DMV has a low burden of proof, so these administrative hearings almost always end up on their side.
  • The police do not have to prove that you were DWI; that issue is for the Criminal Court.

Clearly, there is room for confusion about what role the Criminal Court plays and what role is played by the DMV. They are separate, with their own rules and regulations––and their own power to suspend, restrict, or revoke a New York Driver's License. Additionally, the Manhattan Criminal Court has the authority to mandate jail time, probation, or fines. Your Manhattan DWI Lawyer should counsel you to consider your criminal charges and the driver's license issue separately.

A Manhattan Criminal Lawyer from our team will explain that a DWI charge can bring serious consequences for your personal freedom and also for your right to continue driving in the state of New York. It is therefore critical that you have a skilled and serious Manhattan DWI Lawyer at your side to help avoid suspension of your license, and to defend against potential incarceration. At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC, you can meet with a Manhattan DWI Lawyer who will work to defend you throughout your DWI case in Manhattan Criminal Court as well as in front of the DMV. Come in to talk with us about your case at no cost: Call 800.696.9529 and arrange a free meeting with us at the location most convenient for you: in Manhattan along with the other New York City boroughs as well––Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and in the Bronx. You can also meet with us at our Long Island offices in Nassau County or in our Suffolk County location, or in our location in Westchester County.

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