Last week, the New York Senate passed a bill requiring field sobriety tests and blood alcohol tests of all drivers involved in fatal traffic crashes to help investigators determine if alcohol was a factor. Police officers would be required to test the drivers’ alcohol levels as soon as possible after a crash, either at the scene or in the hospital. However, law enforcement would only test drivers’ alcohol levels if someone is killed or seriously injured as a result of the crash.
According to bill sponsor Sen. Joseph Robach, field sobriety tests and blood alcohol level tests are vital pieces of evidence in drunk driving cases. However, current law only allows New York police officers to test a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) if they suspect the driver is over the legal limit of 0.08.
Even if a police officer suspects that a driver involved in a serious or fatal traffic crash is over the legal BAC limit, the driver can refuse to submit. If a driver refuses to submit to a blood alcohol test, the police officer must obtain a court order to test the driver, enabling some drunk drivers to avoid DUI prosecution. Under the proposed legislation, a refusal would be seen as guilt and would be included in the police report used at trial.
Robach hopes that the bill will strengthen investigations of serious crashes, help bring drunk drivers to justice, and allow law enforcement to provide solid answers to victims and their families.
The bill now moves on the the New York Assembly.