New rules for DWI suspects in New York City

December 27, 2009 8:22:00 AM PST
New York City is rolling out new rules for suspected DWI drivers who refuse breath tests after a car crash resulting in death or serious injury. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and the city's five district attorneys announced the changes Sunday.

The new procedures are aimed at expediting blood tests of the suspected DWI drivers.

Under the old system, police officers took suspects first to the nearest stationhouse and then to one of six special blood testing units around the city. Now suspects will be taken directly to the testing unit.

The rules are as follows:

  • NYPD patrol supervisors may read the chemical testing statement (i.e., administer the refusal warnings) at the scene, rather than first transporting the suspect to an Intoxicated Driver Testing Unit (IDTU). There are only six IDTU sites in the city, two in Manhattan and one each in the other boroughs.
  • The arresting officer may remove the suspect directly to the IDTU location for testing, rather than go first to the nearest station house, which was the previous practice.
  • If portable breath test equipment is not already at scene, it does not have to be employed unless it would likely assist in establishing probable cause to arrest.
  • Police will notify the District Attorney's Office at the earliest time possible to permit a quick application for a warrant.
  • A new Patrol Guide procedure will specifically address handling a crash with significant physical injuries and suspected driver intoxication.

    "These changes streamline the process to better assure that a culpable drunken driver does not escape justice through delay," Commissioner Kelly said.

    The changes come two months after an off-duty NYPD police officer twice refused to take a Breathalyzer test following a deadly accident in the Bronx. It took investigators more than five hours to get a court order for a blood sample.

    Several other changes also are planned. Kelly says they will help make sure drunken drivers don't "escape justice through delay."