Articles Posted in DUI

The District of Columbia is unique for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that there are dozens of police departments whose officers regularly patrol the city. Between the Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Secret Service, the Metro Transit Police, the United States Park Police, the Capitol Police, the myriad university police forces and more, D.C. residents can practically be pulled over or arrested anywhere by any force at any time. That being said, it is always helpful to have an understanding of the different federal and local police forces which have jurisdiction in Washington, D.C. and to know their jurisdictions. Here is an overview of some of the most prevalent police forces in D.C. who can pull you over and potential arrest you for a DC DUI or DWI:

1. District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)

The Metropolitan Police, or MPD, is the local police force for the District of Columbia, and its jurisdiction covers the entirety of the District. MPD operates like any other city police department and serves the city as its local police force.  MPD is probably the most common agency to make arrests for DUI’s in DC and many of the MPD officers are certified to administer the standardized field sobriety tests and operate breathalyzer machines.

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A couple was arrested in New Jersey this week for two separate instances of drunk driving, each within six hours of each other according to a report from USA Today’s Daily Record.  The boyfriend was the first to be arrested after a police officer responded to a call about a vehicle left on the side of the highway with its engine running, blinker on and keys in the ignition.  After a lack of cooperation on the boyfriend’s part and a declined Alcotest (New Jersey’s breathalyzer program), he was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, refusing a breath test, open container, consumption of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle, reckless driving, failure to exhibit registration, and disorderly conduct.  He was then taken to jail to wait in a holding cell until someone could pick him up.

When his girlfriend arrived to do just that, officers noticed the smell of alcohol on her breath.  She admitted to drinking earlier in the day, and upon taking the field sobriety test and an Alcotest exam, was discovered to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .28%—well over the legal limit of .08%.  She was then charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) and joined her boyfriend to wait for a family member to retrieve her from the police station.
The girlfriend’s arrest raises all sorts of questions about D.C.  DUI law—like when and how a police officer can charge you with a DWI or DUI.   Based on the article alone, the girlfriend wasn’t even driving the vehicle when she spoke with the officers.  How could she have been arrested?  After all, driving under the influence requires that the person was driving not just that they were under the influence.

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nigth-at-hyper-1455387On January 25, 2016, Trump signed two draconian executive orders targeting documented and undocumented immigrants in the United States. There has been much attention regarding the executive orders barring refugees and any citizens’ entry of seven predominately Muslim countries. However, the impact on the criminal justice system regarding immigrants currently in the United States has received far less attention.

The Supreme Court case Padilla v. Kentucky placed an affirmative obligation on criminal defense attorneys to advise immigrant clients about potential immigration consequences for entering into guilty pleas. That seminal case created significant overlap between criminal defense and immigration law. Trump’s recent Executive Orders and their likely impact on the criminal justice system further blur the line between criminal defense and immigration law.

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According to a recent news article from NBC 4 Washington, an officer of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was just arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.  The officer was arrested after his supervising officer allegedly noticed a strong odor of alcohol coming from his person during an interaction with this officer that arose as a result of a civilian complaint.

Police CarThe defendant has been a sworn MPD officer for four years prior to his drunk driving arrest in Washington, DC.  When his supervisor smelled the odor of alcohol, he asked the officer to exit his vehicle and subjected him to a series of standardized field sobriety tests (SFTSs).  According to a spokesperson for the MPD, this officer allegedly failed the SFSTs, and that, along with additional probable cause, led them to arrest the officer on a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. It is important to understand that this officer has merely been accused of a crime and is presumed innocent unless and until he is found guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt. Continue reading

Owner and founding attorney Joseph Scrofano discusses what qualities to look for when hiring an attorney. Many people think there is a single best criminal defense or DUI attorney out there. However, there is no single best criminal defense attorney. Its important to hire someone you are comfortable with who will fight aggressively to protect your rights and get you a good result based on the facts of your case. Experience in the court you are getting charged in is another factor to consider when looking for the right criminal defense or DUI attorney. At Scrofano Law PC, we abide by three core principles: honesty, commitment, and creativity.

We are always honest with our clients. 100 percent of the time. No exceptions. We will never try to convince you to plead guilty when its not in your interest to do so. We will never try to scare you into taking a deal. We are committed to your case. Whether it requires dragging out the case over a year and filing every possible non-frivolous motion, we will do it. Finally, we do not provide a standard approach to each case. Each case is different and we look for creative, outside the box solutions to the problems you face. If you are someone you know is under investigation or charged with a crime, crime contact Scrofano Law PC today for a full case evaluation.

Owner and Founding Attorney Joseph Scrofano discusses the importance of exercising your right to remain silence. It is one of our most cherished and fundamental rights. The police, court, and government cannot lawfully hold it against you. We hear it in the movies and see it on television. It is one of our fundamental rights under the constitution. The two most important things you can do in any police interaction are: (1) show respect and cooperate with the officer; and (2) forcefully yet respectfully assert your rights. It may sound contradictory but you should even say the words: I am asserting my right to silence.

If you or a loved one find yourselves under investigation or facing a criminal charge, contact Scrofano Law PC for a full case evaluation. Our attorney have experience fighting criminal charges and investigations in DC and Northern Virginia. We specialize in DC DUI cases, hit and runs, solicitation case, gun cases, drug cases, record sealing and expungement, underage drinking, assault crimes, misdemeanors, and serious felony charges in DC Superior Court, DC District Court, Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax.

In the District of Columbia, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is responsible for prosecuting DUIs and it takes this job very seriously. While other jurisdictions routinely offer favorable deals for DUI offenders, DC rarely does. What that means is that often times you would be no better off pleading guilty than you would be if you took the case to trial and lost. Your best bet at beating a DUI conviction is going to trial and holding the government to its burden of proof.

To be convicted of a DUI, the government must prove that you were (1) operating a motor vehicle (2) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While two elements may not seem like much to prove for the government, there are numerous ways to challenge the evidence against you on both elements.

The first element of the DUI offense is the trickiest element to challenge because DC law has a broad definition of what it means to operate a motor vehicle. Operate is defined as actual physical control over the vehicle. Physical control means capable of putting the vehicle into movement or preventing movement. If you were pulled over and the police witnessed you driving, it is hard to say you were not operating the vehicle.

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A Wisconsin man is currently facing up to 30 years in prison after being convicted of his eighth DUI. In the state of Wisconsin, while a single DUI conviction is usually charged as a misdemeanor, multiple DUIs are charged as felonies which carry significantly higher penalties. Unlike in Wisconsin, however, DUIs within the District of Columbia are never charged as felonies.

As previously discussed, in the District, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has jurisdiction over the prosecution of DUIs. The OAG can only prosecute traffic misdemeanors like DUIs, reckless driving, and hit and runs. Conversely, if a person within DC is charged with a felony, the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) has jurisdiction to prosecute the case. Consequently, the OAG will rarely ever charge a DUI as a felony because it does not want to lose jurisdiction over the case. What this means is that no matter how many DUIs you get within DC, you will only ever be charged with a misdemeanor. So while the Wisconsin man mentioned earlier faces up to 30 years in prison for eight DUI convictions, the most time a person will spend in jail for any DC DUI or DWI is up to 1 year.

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sleep-1431410What started out as a mission to satisfy a late-night craving, ended in disaster for one Florida man when a police officer found him sleeping in his car at a Taco Bell drive-thru.

As explained in a recent Los Angeles Times article, the driver fell asleep while placing his order early one Friday morning.  After the drive-thru attendant woke the driver up, he pulled his car into a parking spot to wait for his order there.  Not long after the driver parked his car, a police officer who had been dining inside the restaurant, noticed him sleeping.  The driver explained to the officer that he was just waiting on the food he’d ordered, but the officer knew something the man did not—he had actually never ordered his food.  Suspecting the driver may be under the influence, the officer asked him to take a roadside breath test but he refused.  However, the man was eventually charged with DUI after failing a field sobriety test.

This news article demonstrates the confusing nature of what it means to “operate” a motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence.  Employing the general standards of common sense, one would think the driver wasn’t in control of his vehicle in this situation because the car was parked and the driver was asleep.  In the District of Columbia, however, common sense does not prevail.

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car-1232347As previously discussed, if you are arrested in the District of Columbia for a DUI, the DMV will most likely suspend or revoke your license for a period of 6 months to 2 years depending on various factors. However, the DC DMV offe
rs an Ignition Interlock Device Program (IIDP) allows DUI and DWI offenders to get their driving privileges back faster.  An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer connected to a car’s ignition system. To start the car, the driver must first blow into the device to check the alcohol level on his or her breath. The car will only start if the driver’s breath alcohol level is below an accepted amount on the device.

While the device itself may be a bit burdensome on a driver or a somewhat unsightly in your vehicle, DC’s IIDP gives DUI offenders a chance to reduce the suspension or revocation period on their license. What this means is that if your license is suspended because of a DC DUI and you participate in the program, you get a restricted driver’s license which allows you to drive as you once did, so long as your vehicle contains the breathalyzer. Although the program is optional at the moment, it may become mandatory for some DUI offenders.

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