Mark Steinberg, Tiger Woods’ agent, was arrested Saturday evening in the Westchester County town of Ardsely, New York for drunk driving and DWI. According to reports, Steinberg allegedly recorded a .18 on the intoxilyzer. The legal limit in New York State is .08. Once a driver blows .18 or higher on a breathalyzer, the misdemeanor offense is enhanced in terms of potential punishment while possible offers are limited by law from standard Driving While Intoxicated and DWI arrests.
Briefly, Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) 1192.2 is New York’s typical DWI statute when the police are able to obtain a reading of ones breath/blood alcohol content, or BAC, of .08 or greater. At one’s arraignment, the court will suspend the driver’s license or privilege to drive in New York for thirty days and require that the defendant meet with a therapist for an assessment. This assessment will address alcohol use, possible abuse and potential treatment. In limited circumstances, the court can conduct a “Hardship Hearing” if the suspension would cause and an extreme hardship for the defendant to get from his or her home to work or school. In such circumstances, a court will not grant this limited conditional license to drive unless the defendant establishes inability to obtain alternative means of travel. It is worth noting that at the Hardship Hearing a defendant must provide evidence beyond his or her own testimony to corroborate and establish the extreme hardship.
Generally, most jurisdictions in the metropolitan New York City area have guidelines as to how high one can blow in an Aclo-sensor or similar device before an offer is cut off. In other words, Manhattan, for example, might offer a non-criminal VTL 1192.1 (Driving While Ability Impaired) to an individual who blows a .11, but not to an individual who blows a .14. Westchester County, where Steinberg is being prosecuted, may make an offer at .14. There is no rule that crosses each county. It is safe to say, however, barring some extreme mitigating factors in terms of evidence or or other elements, an offer of a Driving While Impaired violation will not be made in an Aggravated DWI (VTL 1192.2(2-a) arrest after an individual blows a .18 or greater. In fact, the law does not permit such a disposition barring a dismissal of the Aggravated DWI charge. Instead, the options are often to plea to a “lesser” or “regular” DWI pursuant to VTL 1192.2 or VTL 1192.3 or take the case to trial.
So, now that we have briefly identified the top charge that Steinberg faces, what are the potential deals or offers in the general course of a DWI prosecution (if there is such a thing as “general course”)? The potential punishment for a VTL 1192.2 case is a fine between $500 to $1,000, a revocation of the right to drive for six months, up to one year in jail, probation, attendance at a victim impact panel and the completion of the DDP (Drinking Driving Program) to get your license to drive back. There will also be a $250 assessment to the driver’s license for three years. Should Steinberg be convicted for Aggravated DWI, the misdemeanor level crime does not change, but the penalties are increased to include fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 and a license revocation for a year.
If Steinberg, or any defendant, is convicted of DWI in New York there is one other significant collateral issue. New York State requires that an ignition interlock device be placed on cars or vehicles registered to the convicted driver as well as any vehicle he or she uses. At the expense of the defendant, the interlock is installed and must be blown into prior to starting the vehicle. Further, even when the vehicle is in motion the driver may have to blow into the interlock. If the unit senses alcohol it may come to slow stop and the information will be reported back to a central agency. While this blog entry will not discuss it, there are crimes for tampering with or driving without an interlock (these crimes and related information is available at New-York-Lawyers.org).
If Steinberg determines that no acceptable offer is made, there are many fruitful ways to challenge the results of a breathalyzer type machine whether it be an attack to the maintenance and working order of the device or something in the defendant’s biological system that enhanced the reading improperly. Did the police watch the defendant for a long enough time to ensure nothing was ingested that would cause the results to be flawed? Was the unit maintained at the proper temperature? Alternatively, was there probable cause to stop and arrest the defendant for DWI? If, for example, there was a checkpoint, did the police conduct the checkpoint properly? The questions and issues are many.
What defense Steinberg implements will certainly be interesting. At first glance, he is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The law limits the Westchester County District Attorney’s ability to make a non-criminal offer. While jail is not a likely penalty even if Steinberg is convicted, his is left with limited options if he cannot mitigate his conduct down. It may be that a juicy tabloid trial is coming to Ardsley along with a little excitement to a sleepy river town. Time will certainly tell.
To learn more about New York DWI laws, follow any of the links above or read more through on the NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com and New-York-Lawyers.org’s DWI law section.
The New York DWI lawyers at Saland Law PC served in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s trial division and DWI units before starting the criminal defense firm. The New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients in DWI and DUI arrests throughout New York City and many of the surrounding suburban jurisdictions.