Drinking and Driving this Holiday Season

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Every November and December, we look forward to attending family gatherings, office parties and business affairs, and many other holiday celebrations with friends and neighbors.  But, with the holidays comes drinking, and law enforcement is out in force and hyper-vigilant when it comes to drunk driving stops and sobriety check points in the District of Columbia.  Though we never condone driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, if you make a mistake and are one of the unlucky drivers stopped for suspicion of DUI, there are things you can do to keep your situation from going from bad to worse.

Be very careful when you answer any questions

Don’t “help” the police by providing information about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing.  When you are stopped, the first question the officer may ask you is: “Have you had anything to drink tonight?”  If you answer this question in the affirmative, or try to explain that you only had one glass of wine, you have provided law enforcement with a voluntary confession that will be used against you.  You are not obligated to tell the police anything, other than your personal information, like name and address.  It is imperative that you stay calm and politely refuse to answer any other questions, even if the officer becomes angry or threatens you with arrest.  It is your constitutional right to remain silent and you should use it to protect yourself.

Invoke your fifth and sixth amendment rights

Since you are not technically under arrest yet, a police officer does not have to read you the Miranda warning or advise you of your constitutional rights to remain silent and have an attorney present.  Even though you have not been read these rights, you still have them and you should use them.  Politely answer any question the officer asks with: “I invoke my fifth and sixth amendment rights” or “I am asserting my right to silence.”

  • The Fifth Amendment includes your right to remain silent and your right against self-incrimination.
  • The Sixth Amendment includes your right to have a lawyer present during a criminal proceeding. A DUI is considered a criminal proceeding.

Invoking your rights will prohibit the prosecutor from trying to use your silence as an admission of guilt and should also stop any additional questioning until your attorney is present.  If the police continue to try and question you, simply restate that you are invoking your fifth and sixth amendment rights.  Over 90% of drivers who are stopped for suspicion of DUI are arrested, so trying to talk your way out of this situation will almost always make things worse.

Refuse to take a roadside sobriety test

The roadside sobriety tests or “standardized field sobriety tests” are given to provide evidence that supports law enforcement’s belief that you are intoxicated.  The tests are highly subjective and your success or failure is left to the discretion of the police officer who is administering the test.  The sobriety test has little to no scientific value and is set up for you to fail and appear drunk.  If the police ask you to get out of your vehicle and take a standardized field sobriety test, you may refuse.  The test is voluntary and there is really no upside to taking the test.  Most drivers are unaware that this is even an option.  In the District of Columbia, there are no additional penalties for refusing to take the field sobriety test.  Refusing to submit to the test may help your case by giving the prosecutor less evidence to show that you were driving while impaired.  However, it is likely if you refuse the test, the officer will arrest you.

Chemical tests

There are three tests used in the District of Columbia to measure blood alcohol content or BAC: urine, blood, and the most commonly used, the breath test.  Once arrested and at the police station, you will be asked to take two breathalyzer tests.

Because DC has implied consent, refusing the breath test comes with its own set of consequences, and your license could be suspended for one year.  That said, there are some legal advantages to refusing the breath test.  If you are intoxicated, a BAC of .20 or above will incur mandatory jail time.  By refusing the test, you may stay out of jail.  It is also easier to win a case without breath test scores and only law enforcement’s subjective testimony that you were driving drunk.  So, while refusing a breath test may help you by limiting damaging evidence, it could impact your driving privileges.  It should be noted you could potentially lose your license for six months just for getting arrested for DUI.

But even if you choose to blow, there are ways for your attorney to fight the results.  Many things can cause a breath test to give inaccurate results, including incorrect operation of the testing equipment, poor or improper calibration, mouth alcohol, certain medications, and failing to follow proper procedures when administering the tests.

Contact Jay Mykytiuk today

If you’re looking for an experienced DUI law firm that will fight for your rights throughout the DUI criminal process, contact Jay P. Mykytiuk, Trial Attorney.  Mr. Mykytiuk has successfully represented individuals throughout Washington D.C. who have been arrested and charged with a DUI or DWI. Contact us today at 202.505.5863 to discuss your case.

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