Articles Posted in DWI

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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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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In recent news, Public Enemy hype man Flavor Flav was arrested for driving under the influence in Las Vegas. This arrest follows a string of other charges plaguing the Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer including charges for marijuana-related DUI, speeding, open container, operating a vehicle without a valid permit, and battery. Considering the length of the rap legend’s rap sheet, you can imagine how quickly Flavor Flav said “Yeahhh Boiii” when the judge in the most recent case accepted his plea of no contest.  In some states, when you are arrested for a crime, you have the option of pleading three different ways to the charges: not guilty, guilty, or no contest. Generally, the government will offer you some type of deal in order for you to plead guilty or no contest because it gives the government a chance to close your case quickly and secure an easy conviction.  Flava Flav’s case illustrates an important point about handling a DUI or DWI in DC.

In many cases, it is common for the government to offer some sort of lighter sentence in return for a defendant’s guilty plea. In other cases, a defendant may plead no contest (or nolo contendere) and the government will not oppose this plea because the defendant will be punished the same way as if he or she pled guilty. A no contest plea is preferable for some defendants because it allows the defendant to avoid admitting guilt for the crime and the negative effects that a guilty plea may have otherwise had in the future. A nolo contendere plea is basically the Defendant saying: “I may or may not be guilty but I don’t want to take the time and effort to challenge the prosecution.”

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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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