According to the CBS report, on March 30, 2009, news reporter and former police detective Michael Sheehan was arrested for drunk driving in Manhattan’s SoHo area. Apparently, or at least it is alleged, that he had collided with a horse while driving drunk.
The report indicates: “Prosecutors said the 60-year-old Sheehan refused a breath test and this resulted in an automatic suspension of his license.” Not sure where he got this idea, but one would assume that it was either on advice of counsel or possibly it was simply based on the detective’s experience enforcing drunk driving laws.
I can’t speak for New York offenders, but in Michigan at least, it is usually not a good idea to refuse the breath test because not only do you end up with a one-year suspended license, but in almost every instance you will be taken for a blood draw. So what have you gained? You end up with no license and the prosecutor has blood, which is probably a more reliable test result as compared with what the prosecutor would have had you taken the breath test. There is no mention of a blood test in the report so perhaps none was taken, and it may have been that the detective was simply trying to avoid having anyone learn the level of his intoxication.
The report is silent as to whether or not the detective refused field sobriety testing. If he did, this was almost certainly a good move. Again, looking at Michigan’s drunk driving laws, there is no penalty to refusing the field tasks, and by doing so what you have effectively accomplished is to deprive the prosecutor of evidence they will use against you.
What’s really amazing about this story is the statement of the detective’s lawyer “It was the horse’s fault!?” That’s an original defense to drunk driving, but probably not a very useful one. I wonder if it is the “truth” or the verdict that will ultimately vindicate the detective, that is, if he can be vindicated at all.