Operation as an Element of a New York DWI Case

The first element in a New York DWI case is whether the individual was “operating” a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired.  The word “operation” has a very specific meaning in the context of a New York DWI case.  Of course, driving counts as operation, but operation can also be found where you have only started the car.  Under New York law, you operate a motor vehicle if you start the the motor vehicle with the intention of putting it in motion.


Asleep at the wheel: Assessing Intent

If a driver is found asleep behind the wheel of a running car, the key question is whether they intended on placing the car in motion.  This element can be difficult for a prosecutor to prove because it addresses the mental state of the driver.  A skilled DWI attorney may be able to create a dispute of the driver’s intent.  If the driver’s intent is in dispute, then the people will not have met their burden as to this element of the charge.


Lack of Observation: Fighting Indirect Evidence

In a typical drunk driving case, operating is observed by the arresting police officer.  What happens is there is a one car accident and there is no observation by the police?  Often drivers will confess to having operated a motor vehicle when questioned by a police office, but when no driver statement is made the prosecutor must resort to indirect evidence. Circumstantial evidence is admissible in a New York criminal case to prove that a driver operated a motor as defined by New York drunk driving laws.  However, if the circumstantial evidence fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver operated the motor vehicle, then the prosecutor will not have met his burden.


The Other Elements of a DWI Charge