If you look around the next time you are at a restaurant, bar, party, your office, or even your church, chances are you’ll see someone there who has been arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, young or old, making the choice to drive after one or several drinks, may land you in jail. From the minimum wage employee to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, drinking and driving after having one or several drinks is a temptation that affects millions of law-abiding citizens. And due to the lobbying efforts of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and the zero tolerance stance of state legislatures, the penalties for DUI continue to increase in severity. Washington, D.C. has not escaped this trend, which is bad news for D.C. DUI defendants.
After fairly recent changes in D.C. DUI law, those charged with a first offense D.C. DUI face up to 180 days in jail, and/or a $1000 fine. If you submit to a breath test, and your blood alcohol content (BAC) is between .20 and .25, you face a mandatory minimum jail time of 10 days. If your BAC is over .25, you will serve at least 15 days if convicted. In addition, your privilege to drive in the District of Columbia will be suspended for at least six months. Refusing to submit to the breath test will result in a 12 month suspension of your D.C. license. Penalties increase for second and subsequent DC DUI offenses , regardless of your BAC.
Visit Joseph Scrofano’s site and download the “10 Ways to Fight a DUI.”
But while DUI is a criminal offense, simply drinking before driving is not per se illegal. As your D.C. DUI lawyer will advise you, arresting you for DUI, and convicting you of DUI are two very different things. In order to convict you of DUI in the District of Columbia, the government is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They can do this in two ways: 1) by showing that your BAC was .08 or higher, or that you were driving with any amount of certain drugs in your system; and 2) by showing that your driving behavior and/or performance of the field sobriety tests indicate(s) that you were driving under the influence.
Your experienced D.C. DUI lawyer will defend you against both methods of proving your guilt. If breath test scores are available, your lawyer will obtain all the available information about the breath test machine to ensure that it was working properly on and before the night your test was given. Your lawyer will also make sure that the test was administered properly, and that the officer who operated the breath test machine was qualified to do so. The ultimate goal of your DUI lawyer is to prevent your breath test scores from being admitted into evidence.
While it is possible to keep breath test scores out of your case, your chances of winning at trial increase dramatically if there are no breath test scores available. Without the “scientific” evidence, the government will have a more difficult time proving that you were driving under the influence. That’s because the government’s case will be based solely on the observations of the police officer or officers who had contact with you before, during, and immediately after your arrest. They will testify mainly about your driving behavior, your appearance, your demeanor, and your performance on the battery of road side tests. This testimony will be 100% subjective, and your DC DUI lawyer will conduct a thorough and aggressive cross-examination of these officers. My next blog post will discuss the most common aspects of officers’ DUI testimony, and how your experienced D.C. DUI lawyer will attack it.
If you have already been charged with DUI in Washington, D.C. contact JPMLegal today, and get this information in person.