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Experienced Brooklyn Attorneys Answer Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury and Criminal Defense in New York

Whether you’ve been injured in a car accident or arrested and charged with a serious felony in New York, you likely have a lot of questions about your case. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions we often get as we help people with their legal matters. If you don’t see your question answered below, please call the Law Offices of Miller & Miller at 718-522-0023 for a free consultation.

Criminal Defense FAQs

When is it better to plead guilty or go to trial?

Many issues should factor into this decision, including the strength of the prosecution’s case against you, what defenses you might have available, what the prosecutor is offering in exchange for a plea, and what penalties you might face if convicted at trial. Keep in mind that pleading guilty has consequences of its own that could continue to affect your life even if granted a favorable outcome such as probation. Don’t plead guilty without talking to an experienced criminal defense lawyer first. Whether to negotiate a plea or go to trial is a decision you should make together with your attorney based on the facts and circumstances in your particular case.

Can I lawfully refuse to take a DWI test?

As a licensed driver, you’ve given your implied consent to submit to a chemical test based on reasonable grounds that you were driving while intoxicated or impaired. Refusing to take a test is a civil violation. Following a DMV administrative hearing, your driver’s license can be revoked for one year, and you can be hit with a $500 civil penalty, plus a $250 driver responsibility assessment levied every year for three years, and an extra $100 to reinstate your license. You could even be jailed while your hearing is pending. Finally, the fact you refused the test can be used against you in court as evidence of intoxication.

On the other hand, if you are facing a felony DWI charge or were involved in an accident that caused injury or death, the penalties of a conviction might be much greater than those imposed for refusing a test.

This law only applies to a chemical test of your blood, breath or urine. It does not apply to so-called field sobriety tests (the one-leg stand test, the walk-and-turn test, etc.) that the police might try to get you to do. The reason they want you to take these tests is that they are subjective and designed to give the police enough cause to require a chemical test. You can lawfully refuse field sobriety tests without the consequences mentioned above. Also, the police are required to explain to you the consequences of a test refusal and your right to consult with an attorney. If they failed to do this, your lawyer can keep you from being penalized for a test refusal.

Do I have to let the police search me or my car or house if they don’t have a warrant?

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures. Typically this means the police must have a warrant or probable cause to conduct a search, but there are exceptions. For instance, New York allows its police to “stop and frisk” upon reasonable suspicion. They can also seize items in plain view during a lawful stop, and they can search areas within your reach or inventory your car after a lawful arrest. There are other exceptions as well.

Most importantly, the police can always search if they ask for and receive your consent. Listen to this request carefully. They might make it sound like you don’t have a choice or that refusing a search would incriminate you, but you do have the right to withhold consent. There is rarely any good reason to let the police search you or your belongings when you don’t have to let them, despite what they may say.

If the police tell you to step aside while they search, you should comply and bring up any concerns about the search to your lawyer who can have any unlawfully seized evidence suppressed and possibly get your case tossed out. If the police ask your permission to search, you can politely say no without fear of consequences.

Personal Injury FAQs

What if the driver who hit me didn’t have insurance?

New York is a no-fault insurance state, so your first step after a car accident is likely to file a claim under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy. It’s only if your injuries qualify as “serious” under New York law that you would sue the other driver for their negligence. In that case, if the driver is uninsured, you can file a claim under your uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. Don’t make the mistake of handling a UM claim on your own, though. Your interests are not the same as your insurance company’s interests, and just because they are your company and not the other driver’s, don’t think they won’t try to minimize their payout to you. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you get maximum compensation on a UM claim that matches the true value of your claim.

UM coverage is also available if you were hurt in a hit-and-run accident and can’t locate the other driver.

If neither you nor the other driver has any available insurance, you might qualify for benefits through the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC). MVAIC claims must be filed soon after an accident, so follow up on this as soon as possible.

What’s the law in New York on texting while driving?

New York prohibits all handheld use of a mobile device while driving. This means no talking and no listening while holding the phone. It also means no writing, sending, reading, accessing or browsing an email, text or website. No viewing, taking or sending pics while driving, and please, no playing games on your phone while behind the wheel. All of these activities can result in a ticket, a fine and a surcharge. A conviction adds points to your driver’s license and your license can be suspended if you rack up 11 points in an 18-month period. Wait until you reach your destination to check that text.

A citation for texting while driving is strong evidence of negligence and fault in a car accident injury case.

What if the accident caused a fatality to a family member?

New York law allows a surviving spouse, child or other dependent to bring a Wrongful Death lawsuit against the person who caused the death of a loved one through their negligence. Surviving family members can recover medical and funeral expenses as well as compensation for loss of services, earnings or benefits the deceased would have provided. New York only recognizes economic damages, so family members cannot recover for their emotional pain and suffering. However, they can recover for the conscious pain and suffering experienced by the decedent between the time of injury and death.

Are bars liable if they overserved a customer who caused a drunk driving crash?

In New York, bars and restaurants can be held liable for accidents or injuries caused by intoxicated persons if they served a person who was visibly intoxicated or known to be habitually drunk or who was under 21 years old. The bar can be liable for both actual and punitive damages. These cases are hard to prove but can provide much-needed compensation to injury victims and their families. At the Law Offices of Miller & Miller, we put in the extra effort to hold all responsible parties accountable in appropriate cases.

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