Capable, Aggressive, and Confident Legal Assistance
DWI Attorney in Rochester, NY
If charged with DWI, you might be at a loss where to turn. The penalties for a DWI conviction have greatly increased over the years, making it more critical than ever to find a qualified DWI attorney. A DWI conviction can result in jail time, probation, loss of your license, and a permanent criminal record. If you’ve been charged with Driving While Intoxicated, you need a capable DWI attorney to ensure your rights are protected. Thomas A. Corletta, Attorney & Counselor at Law, is the right choice to defend your rights and avoid DWI conviction.
Have a DWI? We Can Help.
If you or someone close to you has been charged with DWI in New York State, you need aggressive, experienced, innovative, and qualified legal assistance. Thomas A. Corletta has been practicing DWI law for decades and has extensive experience in all aspects of New York’s DWI laws. He has argued DWI issues at every level of New York State courts, including the state’s highest Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Appellate Division. Mr. Corletta is a zealous advocate for his clients and will fight tirelessly to protect your rights and interests. If you need DWI defense in Rochester, NY, or the surrounding area, contact Thomas A. Corletta today.
DWI cases can be complicated. They have specialized and unique issues. They are often referred to as the most challenging cases for criminal defense lawyers to defend because they combine criminal issues with traffic issues and scientific issues. It is crucial for your criminal defense lawyer to carefully examine the evidence to determine whether the police have followed the necessary laws and procedures. For instance, police officers must follow certain procedures when they administer a breath test, and they can only administer the test under certain conditions and pursuant to certain procedures. If police fail to follow these procedures, it is possible to suppress the breath test results, which could lead to a dismissal or reduction of the charges, even when guilt may seem obvious. As such, your lawyer must be familiar with the principles of chemical breath testing.
If you have been charged with DWI, it is important to hire an experienced attorney who can thoroughly investigate your case and ensure your rights are protected. You need a lawyer like Thomas A. Corletta in Rochester, NY, who stays up to date on all cases, statutes, and developments relevant to your case.
We’ll Handle Every Detail
Unlike other law firms, Mr. Corletta doesn’t pass your case off to a junior associate. He handles each case personally and lends his years of experience to every client.
When you schedule a consultation with this DWI attorney, Mr. Corletta will review legal issues like:
- Legal Sufficiency of Accusatory Instrument
- Admissibility of the breath test
- Lack of probable cause to stop or arrest
- Legality of any search of the vehicle
- Quality of the evidence the prosecution may present; including field sobriety testing
- Sufficiency and reliability of the machines used to measure intoxication levels
- Admissibility of other evidence
Case Study 1
People v. K.D.
MR. CORLETTA GETS DISMISSAL IN SERIOUS DWI CASE DUE TO SLOPPY PREPARATION OF ACCUSATORY INSTRUMENTS
Consider this circumstance. Client is a professional from out of state. Driving down city street, populated by bars, in early morning hours, takes out parked car; observed by several people.
Police come and immediately detain client on suspicion of drunk driving. Thinking it is an easy situation, they neglect to interview multiple witnesses outside bar who saw accident and client driving. Client does not admit to driving in Accusatory Instrument.
Police prepare Accusatory Instruments in sloppy fashion, fail to obtain admission from client as to not only driving, but when driving, and ownership of vehicle. Police failed to obtain statements from multiple witnesses and refer to unverified hearsay in Accusatory Instrument. Police essentially ask Court to assume client driving.
Client is clearly intoxicated, and submits to breath test which registers well over legal limit. Most lawyers would view this as a seemingly hopeless situation. Not Mr. Corletta.
Carefully reviewing the Accusatory Instruments, Mr. Corletta filed the proper Motions attacking the element of operation. The Court, after Hearing Mr. Corletta, reserved decision and reviewed the documents and agreed with Mr. Corletta, dismissing the Accusatory Instruments.
The client, an out of state resident, benefitted from the dismissal by never having to return to Court, and avoided any professional consequences as a result of having a Driving While Intoxicated conviction. Whatever fee Mr. Corletta charged was well earned in terms of this individual’s professional future.
Case Study 3
People v. A.P. (Gates Tn. Ct., 3/2022)
MR. CORLETTA OBTAINS MAJOR REDUCTION IN SERIOUS ACCIDENT CASE.
Consider this scenario: Summertime; weekend; afternoon; client has been drinking heavily. Driving on 2 lane roadway at high rate of speed, passes another car, unable to correct and clips bumper of vehicle ahead of him turning left onto residential street; bounces off that vehicle and ends up in a yard on the right hand side of the road.
Police investigate and run client through Field Sobriety Tests. Client arrested for Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated. Police get statement from driver that client passed indicating client driving recklessly. Client registers .18% BAC.
Most attorneys would think this client was facing severe punishment, including possible jail. Not Mr. Corletta.
Once again, working diligently to protect his young client, Mr. Corletta carefully took the case apart and exploited failures by police to properly investigate the accident. After 2 ½ years of Motions and Hearings, the case finally came to trial in a severely compromised position with the breath test results not being admissible, and the driver/witness being severely compromised as biased through cross-examination. The occupants of the vehicle struck were never produced.
The result? Dismissal of 3 underlying traffic violations and Defendant being found Not Guilty of Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated and Driving with an Illegal Blood Alcohol Content.
The client was only convicted of the minor traffic infraction Driving While Ability Impaired, which was not one of the original charges. The client received minor punishment, including a short term license suspension and mandatory attendance at the Impaired Driver Program.
The client will not have a criminal record, and will have their full driving privileges restored once they complete the 7 week Impaired Driver Program.
The client could not believe the outcome. The result only demonstrates what careful analysis and hard work can achieve.
For the second time in less than 30 days, Mr. Corletta achieved a substantial reduction for a client who was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident after having been drinking.
These clients, who obviously made poor choices, were grateful for Mr. Corletta’s un-compromising, non-judgmental advocacy.
Unlike other attorneys, Mr. Corletta realizes he is not there to lecture the client, but rather to minimize or eliminate the legal consequences they face.
Case Study 5
People v. Anonymous (Henrietta Tn. Ct., 3/21)
MR. CORLETTA TURNS POTENTIAL DWI INTO OUTRIGHT DISMISSAL
In a recent case, an inexperienced Deputy, more concerned with Mr. Corletta’s client’s alleged intoxication, got neither a DWI, nor a traffic conviction, due to improperly prepared Supporting Depositions, in People v. Anonymous (Henrietta Tn. Ct., 3/21).
Mr. Corletta’s client was involved in a rear-end motor vehicle accident. The client left the scene of the accident because they had been drinking, and went home. The other driver got the client’s plate number, and gave it to police, who tracked the client to their home.
Mr. Corletta’s client told the Deputy any drinking occurred at home after the accident. The inexperienced Deputy, suspecting a DWI, accused Mr. Corletta’s client of same in the Supporting Depositions, but didn’t charge the client with DWI because they believed they couldn’t prove it, and because they failed to conduct a proper investigation.
Instead, the Deputy charged the client with Following Too Closely and Leaving the Scene of a Motor Vehicle Accident.
The problem with each Supporting Deposition was the Deputy’s failure to enunciate the factual elements of the infractions actually charged. Each was primarily concerned with the client’s prior alcohol consumption, which was irrelevant to the offenses that were charged. The Supporting Depositions were both conclusory and nonfactual.
Mr. Corletta, immediately noticing the defect, moved for dismissal. The Assistant District Attorney contacted Mr. Corletta, and attempted to get him to plead his client to one of the infractions. Mr. Corletta refused.
The Assistant District Attorney failed to assert any opposition and admitted at the Court appearance that the Supporting Depositions were defective and improperly prepared. As a result, the Assistant District Attorney did not oppose Mr. Corletta’s Motion and all charges were dismissed. Mr. Corletta did not have to even make oral argument, because the DA conceded he was right, and the Town Justice agreed.
Once again, Mr. Corletta demonstrated that no matter what the facts are, if properly analyzed, the case can be resolved favorably for the client, even where the client does not deserve such a disposition. It is not for the defense attorney to judge. It is for the defense attorney to minimize or eliminate consequences. This requires knowledge of the law and objective analysis of the facts. This is why Mr. Corletta gets dismissals, while other lawyers ask the DA for a “break”.
It is always better to be aggressive, and to deal from a position of strength.
Case Study 7
People v. B.C. (Rochester City Ct., 2/21)
MR. CORLETTA OBTAINS DISMISSAL OF 11 OUT OF 12 CHARGES INCLUDING DWI AND 8 SEPARATE TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS.
In an unfortunate situation where the client panicked when police were attempting to effectuate a traffic stop for a seatbelt violation, leading to a chase and 12 separate charges, including DWI and Refusal To Submit to a Breath Test, Mr. Corletta was able to obtain a disposition involving only a minor Misdemeanor conviction and a fine with no other punishment in People v. B.C. (Rochester City Ct., 2/21).
In this case, Mr. Corletta’s client did not stop when signaled to do so for a minor seatbelt violation. The client instead led police on a chase through several city streets, accumulating 27 points in traffic violations, which is a separate basis for a revocation. The chase ended in a minor motor vehicle accident where the client was apprehended, charged with Obstruction of Governmental Administration, Resisting Arrest, and Driving While Intoxicated, although there was no proof whatsoever of intoxication.
Going to work, Mr. Corletta filed several motions, demonstrating the Obstruction and Driving While Intoxicated charge lacked legal basis; with even the District Attorney agreeing with Mr. Corletta with respect to the DWI both were dismissed. Mr. Corletta also won a separate Administrative Hearing in the Department of Motor Vehicles; obtaining a dismissal of the alleged Refusal.
In the end, Mr. Corletta obtained dismissal of all charges, save one, with his client paying a minor $200 fine and obtaining a Conditional Discharge. The client also got a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities, which means the conviction on the misdemeanor will not hinder the client in terms of bars to future employment or other forfeitures. The client also retained his driver license, and avoided imposition of 27 points, which would have resulted in a lengthy revocation aside from the DWI.
All in all, given the number of charges, and the circumstances, this was an outstanding disposition obtained through prompt investigation, filing of Motions, and knowledge of the law. Many lawyers would have thrown up their hands upon seeing such a fact pattern.
Case Study 9
People v. D.A. (Brighton Tn. Ct., 4/22)
MR. CORLETTA ASSISTS FORMER DWI CLIENT IN
AVOIDING FURTHER PUNISHMENT
Some clients just can’t stand prosperity. After successfully getting his client out of a serious DWI accident case with a high BAC, by obtaining a substantial reduction with minimal punishment, the client within one month, promptly went out and got three new tickets; for Speeding, Driving Without a Seatbelt, and Driving with a Suspended License in People v. D.A. (Brighton Tn. Ct., 4/22).
If convicted of these charges, including failing to obtain a Conditional License, Mr. Corletta’s client risked resentencing on the DWAI charge he just extricated the client from, as well as additional punishment on the new tickets which would have impacted the client’s continued ability to drive, since the charges were obtained right after successful resolution of the DWI case, when the client was supposed to be driving on a Conditional License.
The client’s excuse was typical, that they “forgot” to get their Conditional License, and that they were late for work.
Mr. Corletta examined the Accusatory Instruments, which revealed they were as carelessly prepared by the arresting Trooper, as the client was careless and irresponsible in getting the tickets.
What was remarkable about the tickets and Supporting Depositions, is that they contained virtually no factual allegations supporting any of the charges.
Quickly going to work, Mr. Corletta filed an immediate Motion to Dismiss, which the Court immediately took under advisement. Upon appearing in Court, the District Attorney acknowledged there was no defense to the Motion and in fact, conceded dismissal, something Mr. Corletta has increasingly seen from Assistant District Attorneys who apparently don’t want to be bothered.
As a direct result, Mr. Corletta’s client escaped all punishment; both on the new charge and the underlying reduced charge, and can continue on a path towards restoring their full license.
Case Study 11
People v. L.T. (Caledonia Tn. Ct., Livingston Co., 7/21)
MR. CORLETTA AVOIDS 5-YEAR LICENSE REVOCATION IN RURAL COUNTY CASE
Mr. Corletta used discovery violations under New York’s new Discovery statute to leverage a non-alcohol-related plea, which is unheard of, that saved the client a 5-year license revocation under New York’s Multiple Drug and Alcohol-related Offender Regulations in People v. L.T. (Caledonia Tn. Ct., Livingston Co., 7/21).
In that case, Mr. Corletta’s client was facing a possible third alcohol-related conviction within a 25-year period, which would have triggered a 5 year license revocation under the aforementioned regulations, with no Conditional License.
Undaunted, Mr. Corletta dove into the case, filing several Motions. When the Assistant District Attorney, an ex-Judge, did not serve Discovery under the new statute, Mr. Corletta filed a Speedy Trial Motion seeking to dismiss all charges, placing the prosecutor in an embarrassing position. This was enough to leverage the District Attorney into a plea to a non-alcohol-related offense, which is ordinarily prohibited by statute unless the District Attorney consents.
The end result was to avoid any alcohol-related conviction whatsoever, as well as a 6 point speeding violation. The client paid a heavy fine and that was it. No loss of license was associated with the plea. Needless to say, the client was extremely grateful for Mr. Corletta’s tireless advocacy. This was another example of how ordinarily, a person who would be convicted of DWI avoided conviction based upon technical violations that occurred while litigating the case that had nothing to do with the merits of the case. This is why in most DWI cases, it is always better to contest the case. If you don’t go to the stadium, you can’t play the game.
Case Study 13
People v. S. L. (Irondequoit Tn. Ct., 3/2021)
MR. CORLETTA ACHIEVES STILL ANOTHER SPECTACULAR RESULT, DESPITE PANDEMIC
Consider these facts. A police officer, at approximately 3:00 A.M., observes a vehicle weaving over various hazard markings on a busy main thoroughfare in a commercial area. After following the vehicle for several blocks, he stops it and observes 2 individuals inside with an open container of alcohol and cups with alcohol in the center console.
The driver is ordered out of the vehicle, and fails Field Sobriety Tests. The driver becomes uncooperative and refuses to submit to a chemical test. The driver is charged with Driving While Intoxicated and numerous traffic offenses, including Consuming Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle.
Many lawyers would simply throw up their hands, advise their client to plead guilty, and plead for leniency.
As he always does, Mr. Corletta did not take this approach. Instead, he carefully broke down all the charges and attacked the proof by filing several motions. He attacked the facial sufficiency of the underlying traffic charges, held a Probable Cause Hearing, and after the new Discovery laws went into effect on January 1, 2021, demanded further Discovery and filed Motions to Dismiss based upon undue delay. He then proceeded to trial on all the charges, and then thoroughly briefed the proof in a written Memorandum to the Court.
The result? Of the 5 charges his client was originally charged with, the client was convicted of none. All of the traffic offenses, including Consumption of Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle charge, were dismissed based upon insufficient proof. Mr. Corletta’s client was only convicted of the minor traffic infraction of Driving While Ability Impaired, not Driving While Intoxicated.
The client avoided not only criminal penalties, such as probation or incarceration, but the imposition of an Ignition Interlock device on their vehicle for a period of one year. Instead, the client paid a small fine and will attend an Impaired Driver Program.
Mr. Corletta also made a unique post-trial motion in the case, based upon the Court’s delay in rendering the verdict caused by the pandemic, which forced closure of the courts. Mr. Corletta argued the Court had lost jurisdiction during this period based upon well-established caselaw. Although the motion was denied due to the intervention of the pandemic, it undoubtedly had some impact on the Town Justice, who dismissed all underlying traffic charges against the client and found the client not guilty of Driving While Intoxicated.
In all, Mr. Corletta’s client, a medical professional who could have had their license affected by a Driving While Intoxicated conviction, was more than pleased with Mr. Corletta’s tireless advocacy.
Case Study 15
People v. V.M. (9/22)
THROUGH AGGRESSIVE MOTION PRACTICE MR. CORLETTA PROLONGS CLIENT’S ABILITY TO DRIVE, SAVES CLIENT’S JOB, & GETS SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION BEFORE ANY COURT APPEARANCE
Quick action is usually the best action; particularly in DWI cases. It is always better to be on offense. The “my client is a nice guy” defense often used by inexperienced defense attorneys never works in DWI cases. This is because most DA offices have strict policies regarding plea bargaining in DWI cases. Therefore, favorable plea bargains are only achieved through aggressive motion practice and making the DA work.
Such was the case in rural Cayuga County in People v. V.M. (9/22). In that case, the client had a significant job supervising retail store locations in multiple counties. Driving was essential for the client’s employment, and the client’s employer had a strict policy regarding alcohol-related driving offenses, even if committed outside of work hours. Most employers have such policies for insurance purposes where employees drive during the scope of their employment for insurance purposes.
When retained by the client, their license was in immediate jeopardy. Acting quickly, Mr. Corletta analyzed the case and noted some defects in the Accusatory Instrument. He immediately filed a Motion to Dismiss and requested an adjournment to prolong the client’s ability drive. He was successful on both counts.
In the meantime, the DA, immediately served with Motions, contacted Mr. Corletta and immediately offered a significant reduction, including the complete dismissal of a speeding ticket for excessive speed that accompanied the DWI. That tack would have resulted in revocation of the client’s license by itself.
Mr. Corletta accepted the reduction on behalf of his client who will now suffer no loss of driving privileges, and will be immediately eligible for a Conditional License, which will preserve their ability to work.
The client, who has significant family responsibilities, was more than grateful or Mr. Corletta’s quick and aggressive action.
Case Study 2
People v. Anonymous
MR CORLETTA OBTAINS ANOTHER SUPERIOR RESULT IN DIFFICULT CASE.
Consider these circumstances: an emotionally distraught individual is drinking at a bowling alley.
The individual heads home in bad weather. They become so distraught, they pull to the side of the road on an expressway. Although pulled completely off the road, cars are still slowing down and going around the vehicle, due to bad weather.
A State Trooper sees this and pulls up behind the vehicle. He exits to speak to the driver. Although the driver provides license and registration, the driver is so emotionally distraught they do not answer any further questions, and actually vomit on themselves inside the vehicle. The driver displays some signs of intoxication, such as the odor of an alcoholic beverage, but also exhibits mental health symptoms.
The driver is subsequently arrested for Driving While Intoxicated after allegedly refusing emergency medical attention.
The driver is transported to a State Police substation where the driver refuses to submit to chemical breath testing. The driver is still emotionally distraught and crying. Only then does the State Trooper decide to “mental hygiene” arrest the individual, as well as charging them with Driving While Intoxicated.
These were the facts Mr. Corletta was confronted with in People v. Anonymous (Gates Tn. Ct., 6/22).
Naturally, the Prosecutor, cherry-picking the facts, attempted to portray Mr. Corletta’s client as an out-of-control irrational drunk, although there was ample evidence, coming from the Trooper himself, that the client was emotionally distraught to the point no Field Sobriety Tests were administered, allegedly because the client refused or couldn’t do them. The Trooper also admitted he did not observe any driving of any kind, and further admitted that many characteristics the client displayed could have been caused by the client’s “hysterical” emotional state.
The Trooper could not explain why the client was not mental hygiene arrested immediately, as opposed to the prolonged procedure the Trooper carried out with an obviously distraught and sick defendant. Mr. Corletta vigorously argued there was insufficient evidence to show the client was intoxicated, or had recently operated a motor vehicle, and that the supposed indicators of intoxication displayed were equally attributable to the client’s emotionally distraught condition, which ultimately led to a mental hygiene arrest.
The prosecutor disingenuously argued it was Mr. Corletta’s duty to bring out the client’s mental health problems, although the Trooper felt it was obvious enough to send the client to the hospital for mental health reasons.
The Trooper essentially asked the Court to believe he was the final arbiter of what was causing Defendant’s behavior, and attributed it to alcohol, although at the same time, referring the client for a mental hygiene arrest. Thorough vigorous advocacy, Mr. Corletta demonstrated the Trooper could not have it both ways, and the client was convicted only of the lesser-included traffic infraction of Operating a Motor Vehicle While Impaired Alcohol, which took into account that the client’s distraught condition probably attributed to much of the alleged behavior.
As a result of Mr. Corletta’s vigorous advocacy, the client received only a minimal fine and required attendance at an Impaired Driver Program. Mr. Corletta’s advocacy did not allow the prosecutor to paint the client as a dangerous drunk, and validated the client’s mental health issues.
Case Study 4
People v. Anonymous (Mon. Co. Ct., 3/22)
MR. CORLETTA WINS RESTORAL OF CLIENT’S PISTOL PERMIT DESPITE TWO DWI ARRESTS.
Unlike in the past, courts have become extremely cautious when dealing with alcohol-related arrests by holders of Pistol Permits.
This is particularly the case when the weapon is actually being carried at the time of the arrest.
Such was the case in People v. Anonymous (Mon. Co. Ct., 3/22).
There, Mr. Corletta’s client had a prior Pistol Permit suspension and restoral from a Driving While Ability Impaired conviction .
The client picked up a second Driving While Intoxicated arrest and had the gun with them in the car.
However, the client immediately alerted the arresting Deputy to the presence of the weapon, and that they had a permit. There was no issue other than the traffic-related DWI arrest, as the Deputy immediately located and secured the weapon.
Nonetheless, the issuing Court again suspended the client’s Pistol Permit. It is simply not good to be arrested for drinking and driving while carrying a gun.
Tackling both cases, Mr. Corletta secured a reduction of the Driving While Intoxicated charge to Driving While Ability Impaired, a traffic infraction, in prosecution-oriented Ontario County, with minimum punishments. The Town Justice in that case was a former Police Officer.
Turning to the Pistol Permit issue, Mr. Corletta effectively represented his client by demonstrating to the licensing Court that the client had complied with all Driving While Ability Impaired sentence requirements, and that the gun was not involved in the arrest in any way. This was notwithstanding the client was upset with law enforcement due to circumstances of the arrest, and was quite vocal, which caused concern to the Court.
This was all explained to the Licensing Judge by Mr. Corletta at the Pistol Permit Hearing.
The client, a Second Amendment advocate, was counseled by Mr. Corletta that this was not the time or place to engage in political debate.
As a result, the Court required nothing further, relying upon Mr. Corletta’s explanation and proffering of proof of completion of all requirements of the Court’s Driving While Ability Impaired sentence, including the Impaired Driver Program and alcohol evaluation.
The Court restored the client’s Pistol Permit without further punishment, but with a general admonishment, which was well within its’ discretion, to follow all rules regarding possession of firearms.
The client, an avid target shooter and sportsman, was extremely grateful, but was counseled by Mr. Corletta that carrying a gun while going out socially is not a good idea.
Case Study 6
People v. Anonymous (Ontario Co., 4/7/22).
MR. CORLETTA ASSISTS SERIAL DRUNK DRIVER IN SEEMINGLY HOPELESS SITUATION
The practice of law becomes extremely frustrating when people don’t listen. Such was the case in People v. Anonymous (Ontario Co., 4/22).
In that case, Mr. Corletta obtained a favorable plea agreement for his client, who had multiple drunk driving convictions going back to the 1970s. Mr. Corletta obtained a minimum sentence on a new Driving While Intoxicated charge, and the client was ultimately relicensed.
However, the client was also subjected to New York’s mandatory Ignition Interlock law. The client could not stand prosperity, and obtained 3 separate Ignition Interlock violations within the space of about one month.
The client was summoned back to Court by the Judge for a violation of their Conditional Discharge. The Court was obviously perturbed. The Court could have revoked Defendant’s original sentence and sentenced the client to jail on the 3 violations.
Acting quickly, Mr. Corletta directed the client to enroll in alcohol treatment and provide proof thereof. The client initially resisted, but Mr. Corletta laid down the law. Mr. Corletta pointed out to the Court that the client was enrolled in treatment, and offered to make attendance in treatment a part of his client’s sentence, and for the Court to monitor it.
The District Attorney asked that the client be immediately taken into custody. Mr. Corletta beat back that request by demonstrating his client entered treatment and offered to keep the Court up dated on progress.
The Court gave the client a stern warning and accepted Mr. Corletta’s proposal, denying the District Attorney’s request to take the client into custody, which would have resulted in a loss of employment.
Following Court, Mr. Corletta gave the client another stern talking to and advised the client how close they came to going to jail. The client was directed to complete treatment and follow all recommendations, if they wanted to stay out of jail and/or off probation, and provide Mr. Corletta with regular updates to give to the Court.
Given the circumstances, Mr. Corletta performed a virtual miracle on behalf of this client. Many lawyers would not have pushed that hard for a client who seemingly didn’t want to help themselves.
Case Study 8
People v. D.A. (Roch. City Ct., 2/2022)
MR. CORLETTA OBTAINS SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN SERIOUS DWI ACCIDENT CASE WITHOUT HAVING TO CROSS EXAMINE ARRESTING OFFICER
Consider this scenario: Client has been drinking. Returns home from party. While driving down a city street, client loses control, strikes parked vehicle, and bounces into middle of street. Client must be extricated from vehicle by Fire and Emergency personnel. Client fights with them. Client later becomes belligerent with police and refuses to provide name. Client subsequently submits to breath test with result well over legal limit.
This is a scenario in which most lawyers would throw up their hands and beg for mercy from the District Attorney and Court.
Not Mr. Corletta; he attacks it.
Carefully analyzing the situation, Mr. Corletta quickly notes there were 2 officers involved, neither of whom saw the accident happen. The first officer arriving at the scene had minimal interaction with the client. He called a second officer, presumably more experienced in DWI investigations, to administer Field Sobriety Tests, although client was on a gurney in an ambulance, and in no condition to perform such tests.
First, Mr. Corletta carefully examined the Accusatory Instruments. He noted that although 3 underlying traffic violations were charged, there was no enunciation of any facts supporting those charges. Mr. Corletta requested Supporting Depositions for all 3 charges. When none were rendered, Mr. Corletta quickly obtained their dismissal; thereby saving the client 9 points.
The Supporting Depositions that were filed were conclusory as to the driving violations and did not support them. The officers did not observe the accident and did not bother to enunciate any facts providing circumstantial evidence that Defendant committed the underlying traffic violations.
Mr. Corletta next moved to the two DWI charges. Attacking the charge of Driving with BAC over .08%, Mr. Corletta pointed out there was no actual Supporting Deposition establishing Defendant’s BAC.
Mr. Corletta made this argument in writing and twice in open Court, and further argued Defendant’s license should not have been suspended because there was an inadequate Accusatory Instrument that did not show an illegal BAC. The Court agreed and dismissed that charge, over the bewildered Prosecutor’s objection. At this point, four out of the original 5 charges had been dismissed.
The only original charge left was the so-called “Common Law” Driving While Intoxicated, which was based upon observations of Defendant at the scene, Defendant’s physical condition, and Defendant’s alleged admission as to driving, after being questioned on the gurney.
Mr. Corletta attacked the evidence establishing Defendant was the operator. This was made easier because at the Probable Cause Hearing, the People failed to produce the first officer who saw Defendant being removed from the vehicle.
The second officer displayed a flippant attitude and only had been involved in 12 perior Driving While Intoxicated arrests. He did an inadequate investigation. He displayed an inadequate knowledge of Field Sobriety Testing and almost seemed bothered by the Prosecutor’s questioning and Mr. Corletta’s objections. The District Attorney also failed to lay an adequate foundation to admit the results of the Field Sobriety Tests into evidence, which were also performed improperly on a person just involved in a motor vehicle accident.
The hearing was prolonged due to Mr. Corletta’s persistent objections, which were repeatedly sustained by the Court.
Finally at a sidebar, Mr. Corletta suggested a disposition to the District Attorney where his client would plead guilty to a reduced charge; a mere traffic violation. The District Attorney agreed to Mr. Corletta’s proposal. The Court also agreed.
Mr. Corletta’s client suffered a shorterm license suspension, in which the client will have a Conditional License, provided the client attends a state-run Impaired Driver Program. The client also received the minimum fine. The client received no other punishment, and will not have to install the dreaded Ignition Interlock device on their vehicle. The client will not have a criminal record and will not be monitored.
Mr. Corletta was able to obtain this disposition by taking apart the People’s case from an evidentiary standpoint. He never had to ask the officer a single question. This is where knowledge of the evidence and law in Driving While Intoxicated cases pays off. It prevents the client from being placed in jeopardy through a full adversarial hearing, since in most Driving While Intoxicated cases the client has been drinking. The case never reached the point where the merits were addressed, and the client benefitted. This has been Mr. Corletta’s unique in handling these difficult DWI cases for his entire career modus operandi.
Case Study 10
People v. H.R. (Wayland Tn. Ct., 11/17/21)
DESPITE HIGHLY UNFAVORABLE FACTS, MR. CORLETTA OBTAINS OUTSTANDING DISPOSITION
Consider these facts. Rural area. Complaint of a motorcyclist speeding out of a bar is sent to 911 dispatch. Police locate 2 motorcyclists in rural village, allegedly driving recklessly. Both motorcyclists pulled over and charged with DWI. To most lawyers this would sound like a hopeless situation. Not Mr. Corletta.
Carefully parsing out the facts, Mr. Corletta determined the 911 call referred to his client’s companion; not his client. Carefully crafting a set of motions challenging the 911 call and making various other arguments, Mr. Corletta served a bevy of Motions on a rural District Attorney’s office, prior to his client’s arraignment. The client is a rural truck driver with a CDL. The client is older, has no prior criminal history, and has 35 years experience as a truck driver.
Mr. Corletta appeared before a Town Justice with no prior experience as a Judge, and a total lack of knowledge of the procedures in a Driving While Intoxicated case. Nonetheless, by continuing to attack, Mr. Corletta prevented suspension of his client’s license for over 4 months.
However, Mr. Corletta also realized the chances of complete victory in this Court were minimal, given the rural Town Justice had little knowledge of the law; let alone some of the rather complex arguments Mr. Corletta was making.
Therefore, Mr. Corletta negotiated a disposition with the District Attorney, where all original charges were withdrawn and dismissed, and the client pled guilty to a minor alcohol-related traffic infraction with a minimum fine.
The client will not receive any of the usual punishments in a Driving While Intoxicated case; such as a $1,000.00 fine, mandatory Ignition Interlock, etc. Instead the client will receive the minimum license suspension and Conditional License.
The client was extremely grateful for this result, which saved his employment and a great deal of embarrassment. Mr. Corletta will continue to assist his client in regaining their full license.
This case shows that even in adverse circumstances, quick analysis, prompt action, and hard work can result in a favorable disposition, when the odds are against it. Recognizing weaknesses in the case right from the beginning is key in dealing with the District Attorney.
Case Study 12
People v. N.T. (Greece Tn. Ct., 12/21)
MR. CORLETTA USES KNOWLEDGE OF EVOLVING LAW TO OBTAIN DOUBLE DISMISSAL FOR DWI CLIENT
Effective January 1, 2020, New York passed a new Discovery law, which required Prosecutors to provide mandatory Discovery materials, without request from Defendant, within a specified period of time, or be charged with Speedy Trial Time, which is a departure from prior law.
If this were not enough, the Pandemic intervened. There were a series of Executive Orders tolling Speedy Trial Time. However, that ended in October, 2020. Many Prosecutors were lulled into a false sense of security (or outright laziness), based upon repeated “administrative adjournments” due to the Pandemic.
However, effective October 4, 2020, the Governor’s Executive Orders stopped the toll on Speedy Trial Time in Misdemeanor DWI cases. Therefore, this was not a license to continue to do thing.
Many prosecutors did not take note, and continued to delay service of Discovery materials after October 4, 2020. This is what happened in People v. N.T. (Greece Tn. Ct., 12/21).
There, Defendant was arrested in November, 2020, but Court appearances were delayed until April, 2021. However, that did not excuse the Prosecutor’s requirement to file and serve Discovery. They failed to do so.
Accordingly, upon resumption of Court appearances in late April, 2021, Mr. Corletta immediately attacked, objecting to the Court’s jurisdiction and arguing there was an expiration of Speedy Trial time due to the District Attorney’s failure to do anything for 5 months. As a result, the case, which was charged as a Refusal, never got off the ground. Mr. Corletta’s client’s license was never suspended, and the charge was ultimately dismissed due to the Prosecutor’s inaction in a written Decision chastising the Prosecutor, which will serve as precedent in this county.
Accordingly, Mr. Corletta’s client got a rare “daily double” in a DWI Refusal case; i.e. no consequences for the Refusal from the DMV, and an outright dismissal of the DWI charge.
Needless to say, the client was extremely grateful for this outstanding result, which rarely occurs in Driving While Intoxicated cases.
Case Study 14
People v. S.C (Roch City Ct., 5/22)
MR. CORLETTA ACHIEVES SPECTACULAR RESULT FOR CLIENT WITH PRIOR CONVICTION
Mr. Corletta recently took on a case where a client used a noted DWI defense attorney in the Rochester area just 2 years ago and was convicted of Driving While Ability Impaired after trial. The client was again arrested for an alcohol-related offense in People v. S.C (Roch City Ct., 5/22), with an alleged .13 BAC.
This client, just over 2 years after having been convicted of an alcohol-related offense, got another one, and was now looking at sharply enhanced penalties, including probation or jail. He now looked to Mr. Coretta for help. Examining the facts and circumstances, Mr. Corletta realized the case was soft. He immediately filed motions and attacked the People’s discovery responses and underlying breath test evidence.
Keeping up the attack with relentless motions, Mr. Corletta exposed that the manner of driving was not egregious and in fact, only a minimal at best violation of the Vehicle & Traffic Law. Mr. Corletta then got the underlying traffic violations dismissed on another motion, citing insufficiency of the factual allegations in the Supporting Depositions.
Continuing to hack away at the case, Mr. Corletta also exposed several discovery violations by the People, and filed multiple motions seeking discovery sanctions and Speedy Trial dismissal.
Unfortunately, this was met with hostility by the City Court Judge, particularly when Mr. Corletta cited several local cases supporting his argument. These cases were minimized by the City Court Judge, who said they were “lower court cases”.
Given the newness of Article 245 of the CPL, and little appellate guidance at this point on application of the new statute, “lower court cases” are all that are available. Moreover, the cases cited were reported cases by Judges at the same level of jurisdiction. Undeterred and continuing to attack, Mr. Corletta continued to challenge probable cause for the arrest and ultimately at trial, both the allegations of intoxication and the chemical test results.
Mr. Corletta aggressively cross-examined both the arresting State Trooper, who had a disciplinary history, and the Breath Test Operator, who knew little about how the machine operated or was maintained, given that it was completely automated and all he had to do was push a button to initiate the test sequence. The Breath Test Operator appeared annoyed that he had to testify. His lack of knowledge and expertise was exposed in both his direct and cross-examination testimony.
As a direct result, Mr. Corletta obtained an outright dismissal of the test charge, excluding the breath test result, and a reduction of the DWI charge to Driving While Ability Impaired; a traffic infraction. Therefore, of the original 4 charges, the client was convicted of none, and was only convicted of the minor traffic violation of Driving While Ability Impaired. The client received only minimal punishments, despite having 2 DWIs in 2 years, and due to Mr. Corletta’s continued advocacy, the client was in a far better position than when the case commenced.
Thomas A Corletta Attorney at Law
Rochester NY 14614
Monday – Friday
9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.