Getting arrested for a DUI in Washington DC is a serious offense. Penalties for a conviction can include loss of license, higher insurance, fines, and jail time. However, getting arrested is not the same as getting convicted. If you are arrested for a crime, the law presumes you are innocent until proven guilty. However, if you plead guilty and get sentenced or go to trial and are found guilty by a judge or jury, you are no longer innocent. You have been convicted.
Just getting arrested for a DUI can lead to a suspended license and other consequences. However, if your case gets dismissed or you go to trial and are found “not guilty” you will not have a conviction on your record. Because its important to try and avoid a conviction, the following is list of 10 ways to challenge a DC DUI. Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list, all cases are different, and there are no guarantees any of these strategies will work for your specific case. The point of this article is to demonstrate that there are many options for challenging a DC DUI arrest.
1. Attack the results of the standardized field sobriety tests. Often the government will rely on the officer’s interpretation of the three standardized field sobriety test as evidence to convict someone for DUI. However, often times officers administer these tests incorrectly. Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concedes that improperly administered SFST’s lead to compromised results.
2. Move to suppress statements. Many people who are arrested for DUI tend to make incriminating statements by admitting how much alcohol they consumed or making incriminating statements like “I’ll probably fail the test” when asked to blow in a breathalyzer or take SFST’s. Most DC MPD officers however do not read suspects Miranda rights at any point during a DUI investigation or arrest. By filing a motion to suppress statements, your DC DUI lawyer might get incriminating statements suppressed.
3. Move to suppress all evidence. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects against unreasonable seizures. A typical DUI arrest starts with a traffic infraction or car accident. If the police did not have a reasonable basis for the stop or probable cause to make the arrest, all evidence including SFST’s and chemical scores could be suppressed leading to dismissal.
4. Challenge the government’s discovery obligations. The law in the District of Columbia requires prosecutors to preserve and disclose evidence they intend to use against the accused to the defense lawyer. This requirement also extends to evidence that would exculpate the defendant. It is possible to get a DC DUI case dismissed where a prosecutor failed to disclose or preserve material evidence in a case.
5. Move to dismiss for want of prosecution. In some cases, an essential witness may fail to show up for the trial date. This essential witness typically includes the arresting officer, the officer who administers the SFST’s, or the officer who administers the chemical test (blood, breath, or urine).
6. Attack the chemical score. Breathalyzers, urinalysis, and even blood draws or not infallible science. No machine is perfect and chemical tests, while rooted in science, are administered by people. People make mistakes in administering breath machines and laboratory tests. Accordingly, your DUI lawyer may have a basis to challenge the chemical scores.
7. Use video evidence. Most arrests for DUI in DC now involve officers who wear body worn cameras. The old days where a DC police officer could embellish a police report without corroborating evidence are over. If the defendant does not appear intoxicated in the video, its possible to secure a not guilty with solid video evidence.
8. Impeach the officers. Many officers embellish or outright lie on police reports especially in DUI cases where every little fact gets spun to support a defendant’s intoxication. However, if the officer’s statements are contradicted by video evidence, notes, or other reports, impeachment can be used effectively to undermine the officer’s credibility at trial.
9. Attack the quality of the government’s evidence. DUI suspects are often damned if you do damned if you don’t. For example, some officers may put in a report that the defendant was too quiet in response to questioning while another may put a defendant was too talkative. In both cases, the officer may use the evidence to argue the defendant was intoxicated. Often police use innocuous actions of a DUI suspect to argue evidence of intoxication. Providing alternative explanations for the defendant’s conduct unrelated to intoxication can undermine the government’s evidence.
10. Hire an experienced DC DUI attorney who will aggressively use all available tools to fight for your rights. Choosing the right lawyer can be the difference between jail time and probation or guilty and not guilty. Contact Scrofano Law PC today for a full case evaluation.
DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) Refresher, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Revised 10/2015.
Additional Blog Posts:
The Importance of Video Evidence in DC DUI Cases, July 13, 2015, No Papered: A Washington DC DUI Lawyer Blog.