DC DUI and DWI Enforcement: Aggressive, Unreasonable

One of the first questions clients often ask me when charged with a DUI is: What are the chances the government will dismiss my case?sign-no-alcohol-1231362-m

I always answer the same, with a resounding “Zero.”  That’s because prosecutors in the District of Columbia take DUI enforcement extremely serious.  The DC Office of the Attorney General will aggressively prosecute every DC DUI arrest—lack of evidence, havoc on an individual’s livelihood, mitigating circumstances all be damned.

The example that most exemplifies the government’s policy towards DUI prosecutions is about a colleague of mine who had a client that blew a literal 0.00 on the breathalyzer machine.  My colleague requested that the government dismiss the case.  The government refused because the officer suspected the client was under the influence of drugs.  When a urinalysis came back months later that revealed the client had no drugs in her system, my colleague requested that the government dismiss the case.  The government refused and stated that the officer suspected the client had taken “inhalants,” which go undetected in urine tests.  That is the kind of uphill battle defense lawyers face in trying to convince the government to abandon a meritless (or at least questionable) prosecution.

Clients often are relieved to discover that their breathalyzer scores fall below the 0.08, which is the legal limit.  I mean you passed the breathalyzer why would they prosecute you?  In those cases, the government will sometimes offer a Deferred Sentencing Agreement but they will not dismiss the case.  What few people know is that the government can proceed on a theory of proving the case by DUI rather than DWI.  DUI requires that the government prove beyond a reasonable doubt that one was intoxicated.  Such proof can come from a police officer’s observations that the person smelled of alcohol, or had slurred speech, or had troubling walking or standing.  In addition, the government can put evidence that the person failed the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (“SFST’s”).

If a judge finds that the government proved the individual was intoxicated even with a low breathalyzer score, the person can be convicted of DUI.  Its always interesting at trial how the government will argue that a breath score over 0.08 is infallible evidence of one’s intoxication only to completely minimize its importance when the score is below 0.08.  When it comes to DUI prosecutions, the government is relentless.  I agree that drunk driving is a serious concern in our society.  DUI related deaths are particularly tragic because they are avoidable.  Every loss of life is tragic.  However, continued “at all costs” enforcement of DUI laws is not responsive to the successes we have had as a society in reducing DUI tragedies.

I do not agree with the way the government prosecutes DUI’s.  I have seen too many people’s lives ruined.  In many cases, it’s a person’s first arrest, their bad driving was minimal (dark tinted windows, failure to use a blinker, etc.), and they often have low breath scores.  Folks can lose their licenses, their jobs, and often their ability to provide for their family.  They are required to pay for and attend expensive alcohol classes put on by organizations that have contracted with the city government.  They must pay court costs, fines, report to probation officers, and at times lose their liberty.  Pretrial diversion is extremely limited for DUI’s.

Because the consequences are so severe and the government prosecutes these cases zealously, if arrested, its important to consult an experienced DUI lawyer who has a track record for fighting back as aggressively as the government prosecutes.  Contact Scrofano Law for a full and fair consultation.  Also, don’t forget: Before you blow, call Joe!