Interviewer: What are some examples of social costs that people may have due to their DUI conviction?
Eric Sachs: Well, missing work would be one. As a caregiver without a license, how do you drive your children or anybody else to and from their appointments? Then you have the stigma of people looking at you differently when they find out that you have DWI. Then there’s just trying to get your life back in order. On Long Island, where mass transportation is really not available, that could be a huge factor – trying to get to and from a train, to and from a bus. There are provisions most of the time that you can get a conditional license, which will allow you to drive to and from work and take care of some of your business on the weekends, but then you have a driver’s license that has your picture on it with big red letters across the top that say “conditional” so if you have to show your license to anybody for identification purposes even to get into a movie theater or to TSA at the airport, it says “conditional” on it. You cannot travel to certain countries. Canada, for instance, will not let you enter with a DWI. There are other countries in the world that will not let you enter if you have a DWI conviction. You can always come back to the United States because you’re a citizen, but you have that societal issue. These things do come into play about having licenses or not. Then in New York, if you are found to have refused to submit to a chemical test, you won’t have a license at all. You’ll have no driving privileges at all possibly for up to a year or longer, yet you’ll still have to put in an interlock device and pay for that every month but not have the right to drive your car.
Interviewer: If somebody had a conviction on their record they would never be able to get to Canada?
Eric Sachs: Not for 5 years.
That becomes an issue with some people. Maybe you want to go to Niagara Falls. Some people want to go to the Canadian side, but you cannot get in. There are times when you may have an issue while your case is pending, when you go to the border and they run a check. You cannot get into Canada when the case is pending. For flights, we have people who may have an issue when they go to Europe. They fly back to United States and sometimes the flight makes a stop in Canada and they clear customs. People have to be careful; you cannot do that. You cannot be on that flight because you cannot come into Canada; they will not let you clear customs there. These can become big issues in travelling and depend on what you do for a living and how often you have to travel and where.
Interviewer: Have you ever worked on any of those cases where there is a domino effect of bad luck? For instance, someone loses their job and then it gets worse and worse after that because of the DUI conviction.
Eric Sachs: Yes. Cases that I have going now include one where you have a motorist who is stopped or has an encounter with a cop. The motorist is not exercising his commercial driver’s license but has a CDL. My client was then arrested, even though he was just sleeping in the car. He was arrested and brought back to the police precinct. The machine into which he blew – the breath machine – was not working properly. The police now charged him with refusing to blow into the machine properly. Now, that is just off a whole roll of events.
The case becomes a refusal. In New York State, there is implied consent, which means that it is implied that if you have a driver’s license you are going to consent to take a breath test. So now if there is an accusation that you refuse, you have to go to a DMV hearing. At the DMV hearing, they will determine whether or not you voluntarily and knowingly refused to take a breath test. If that is the story, then you could lose your license for one year. Having nothing to do with your criminal case or your DWI case, if you lose your license for a year and if you are the person accused of refusing, your commercial driver’s license is also suspended. Now if you drive for a living, for instance, you need your commercial driving privileges. So the chain of events is now in play where you could lose your job or you are suspended from your job or you cannot do anything. Is there is anything you can do at work that does not require you to drive? Can you be a dispatcher or are you now out of a job until your case is resolved?
So the dominos continue down the road where now this person is accused of DWI, they intentionally or unintentionally did not take a breath test, their commercial driver’s license is suspended, they do not have a job, the criminal case is pending because there is an accusation of a refusal to take a test, the plea bargaining policy is different, the fees and fines could be increased, and the DMV would charge additional fees and fines on the refusal. All this is going on regardless of what happens to the case. Just one thing leads to another, to another, to another, and you have not even determined the outcome of the case yet.
By Eric Sachs