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Drivers in New York should be aware that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, people may be less clear on how officers test or measure intoxication before making an arrest.

This post covers three ways that police may use to determine whether a driver is engaged in drunk driving.

  • Exhibiting signs of intoxication: The first method that a police officer may use to justify an arrest based on suspicion of drunk driving is if an officer observes a driver operating his or her vehicle in an erratic or dangerous manner. If, during questioning, the officer believes the driver is intoxicated based on observations of the driver including blood-shot eyes, slurred speech, having trouble staying focused on the officer’s questions, or failing a field sobriety test, that can lead to an arrest.
  • Having a BAC of 0.08 or more: The second method is the familiar 0.08 BAC level, as measured by a breath test or a blood test. This is known as the "per se" level of intoxication, in that state law deems a person to be driving while intoxicated if that level is met or exceeded. Even if the driver was not necessarily driving erratically, but was pulled over for some other reason, a drunk driving arrest can result if the test result meets the "per se" level.
  • Consuming alcohol while being under the legal drinking age: A third reason officers may make a drunk driving arrest depends on the age of the driver. New York drivers who are under the legal age to consume alcohol but whose BAC is 0.02 or more are subject to "zero tolerance" drunk driving laws.

Understanding some of the basics of drunk driving laws in New York might help drivers who are concerned about a recent arrest and DUI charge. Those who wish to defend against the charges have the right to speak with an attorney to discuss the specifics of their case and identify a potential defense strategy.

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