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DUI Frequent Questions

What do Police Officers look for when stopping suspected drunk drivers on the road?

DC DUI frequent questionsDUI frequent question is – According to the National Traffic Highway Administration, the following is a list of 20 most common “driving symptoms” exhibited by drunk drivers.

    1. Negotiating a wide turn

    2. Straddling along the central marker between the lanes

    3. Appearing to be Drunk

    4. Near misses or hitting either another vehicle or an object

    5. Weaving between lanes

    6. Driving off of designated highway

    7. Swerving within the lane lines

    8. Speeding over 10 mph above the designated speed limit

    9. Questionable stops in traffic lanes

    10. Tailgating

    11. Drifting

    12. Driving over center marker between lanes

    13. Excessive braking

    14. Driving against traffic

    15. Questionable signaling

    16. Delayed reaction to traffic signals

    17. Inappropriate stopping or slowing

    18. Illegal or unwarranted turns

    19. Accelerating or slowing down quickly

    20. Driving without headlights on

What is the police looking for when he hold up his pen/finger and ask me to follow it with my eyes?

Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking or bouncing of the eyeball that occurs when there is a disturbance of the vestibular (inner ear) system or the oculomotor control of the eye. Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) refers to a lateral or horizontal jerking when the eye gazes to the side. According to NHTSA, alcohol consumption or consumption of certain other central nervous system depressants, inhalants or phencyclidine, hinders the ability of the brain to correctly control eye muscles, therefore causing the jerk or bounce associated with HGN. As the degree of impairment becomes greater, the jerking or bouncing, i.e. the nystagmus, becomes more pronounced. This is assessed in the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. So when the police officer holds up his pen/finger and asks you to follow with your eyes, he is looking for nystagmus in your eyes.

Do I have to take the chemical (breathalyzer) test?

If you are arrested in the District of Columbia, you are required to take two breath, blood or urine tests. The DC Implied Consent Act provides that if you refuse to take the chemical test, your driving privileges will be suspended for one year. Refusing the test does not gurantee that you won’t be convicted of a DUI. The goverment may still get a conviction based on the totality of the circumstances. e.g. Field Sobriety Test, driving pattern, etc. You should consult an experienced DUI attorney to see how to defend your case.

Can I be charged with DUI if my car is parked and I am sleeping in it?

The answer is: yes. It depends on whether you are in physical control of the vehicle. You may have stopped driving and park the car because it’s the right thing to do. The District of Columbia drunk driving laws define “driving” as either be operating the vehicle or be in physical control over it. Was the key in the ignition? Was the car running?

If the officer determines that the sleeping driver was driving the vehicle earlier while intoxicated by alcohol that can be enough for that person to be arrested, charged and convicted of DUI. However, do not make any statements to the police officer about whether or not you had consumed alcohol.

Can I be charged with DUI on a bicycle?

D.C. Code §§ 50–2201.02(9) includes DUI while on bicycle. The code defines a “vehicle” as ““any appliance moved over a highway on wheels or traction tread, including street cars, draft animals, and beasts of burden.”

Can I be charged with DUI if I was operating a boat?

boating DUI in DCBoating and DUI in DC

I know it sounds so unusual to get a DUI for Boating in DC.   Although rare, my firm has represented an individual for boating in DC.  The police were not able to make out the case for a number of reason and the case was dismissed.  The main reason the case was dismissed is because the police failed to take the same notes and follow the procedures for DUI Boat as they do for DUI in a motor vehicle.   D.C. Code § 50-2206.31 makes it illegal to operate a watercraft under the influece of drugs and/or alcohol. The penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) is the same as driving (a motor vehicle) while intoxicated. This is why it is important to understand the seriousness of a boat DUI or BUI offense, and know what to do for possible ways how to fight to beat a boating under the influence (BUI) charge offense.

D.C. Code 50-2206.32 provides the following penalties for a BUI

First Offense: $1,000 fine, or incarcerated for not more than 180 days, or both.

Second Offense: 1 year in jail and/or $2,500 – $5000 fine.

Third of subsequent Offense: 1 year in jail and/or $2,500 – $10,000 fine.

Much like a drunk driving case, police office must have probable cause to believe that you are operating a watercraft under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Possible “clues” that he/she is looking for may include, but not limited to the following:

Erractic driving of the watercraft
Boat registration issue
Equipment violation
Slurred speech
Bloodshot eyes
Right of way violations

Just as a DUI case, the officers may conduct preliminary interview

What are DUI and OWI in DC?

Driving while Intoxicated (DUI) is a charge in which the government must prove that you operated a vehicle with a BAC that is higher than 0.08%. On the contrary , Operating while Intoxicated (OWI) can be proven even when the BAC is below the legal limit. The government needs only to show that your ability to drive was impaired. The penalties for an OWI is lighter than a DUI. The maximum penalty for a OWI first offense is 90 days and/or $500.00 fine. A second conviction within a 15-year time period carries a $1,000 – $2,500 fine and incarceration of up to a year, 5 days of which cannot be suspended. A third or subsequent offense within a 15 year period carries a $1000-$5000 fine and a 10-day to one year sentence, with a mandatory minimum of 10 days.  Some states does not recognize the charge of OWI. Therefore, it may not result in loss of driving privileges for out-of-state drivers.

Why am I charged with DUI and OWI?

These are two separate charges and have different elements of law. However, it is typical for the government to dismiss OWI on the day of trial and proceed with just a single count of DUI.

Do I have a right to an attorney when I take the field sobriety test /chemical test?

No, you do not. However, you may ask the officer if you could consult with your attorney prior to taking the test.

Does the police need to give me miranda rights before asking me any questions?

While police officers are required to advise you of the 5th Amendment, it does not have to take place until after an arrest have taken place. This obligation is sometimes overlooked by the arresting officer.  Similar situations occur when the suspected drunk driver is not informed of their rights with chemical testing. There is an implied consent law in Washington, D.C. which deals with a suspect’s legal requirement to consent to a chemical test and penalties if the suspect refuses. This is regulation the suspect must be aware of as it can affect the length of suspension of their driver’s license.

Am I allowed to represent myself in court and/or at DC DMV?

Yes, however, we strongly advise against proceeding pro se in a DUI case or license suspension hearing at DMV. Defending a DUI case is a complicated matter. There are collateral consequences. You should consult with an experienced DUI Attorney to evaluate your defenses.

How much does it cost to retain a DUI lawyer?

We recognize that a DUI lawyer costs can vary quite a bit.  The fees charged by an attorney often depend on: (1) reputation of the attorney; (2) how much time is he/she going to devote on your case; (3) the complexity of your case; and (4) extra fees such as your own expert. If someone only charges you $500 for a DUI case and claims that includes their preparation for a trial and the trial itself, RUN!!! I assure you, they are not spending much time on your case, because they could not afford to keep the doors open doing that.  Read our article on how much a DUI lawyer cost in the DC and Maryland.

What are my defenses in DUI case?

At the outset, you should know that defending a DUI case is not a simple matter.  Please read our blog on DUI lawyer cost to get a baseline.   If you have been arrested for a DUI and want to fight the charge in court and at DMV, you should understand all the defenses that may be available to you. Were you actually “driving” the vehicle within the legal definition of D.C. Code? Did the officer have probable cause to arrest you? Did the officer Mirandize you? Did he/she give you warning about refusing to submit to the chemical test? Was the chemical test properly administered? Was the machine properly maintained and calibrated? You may also have witnesses who can testify to your appearance and behavior prior to the arrest, e.g. you appeared to be sober, you had bloodshot eyes because you just pulled a double shift at work, you ran a red light because you were distracted by the conversation you were having with your passenger. These are just a few of the defenses you may have. Consult with an experienced DUI Attorney.

What is “mouth alcohol?”

Mouth alcohol is residual residual alcohol that can cause a breathalyzer to give false readings. If a DUI suspect consumes a substance that contains alcohol before taking a Breathalyzer test, the exhaled air will absorb alcohol not only from the lungs, but also from the substance used in the upper part of the mouth and throat. This can cause the Breathalyzer machine to show the alcohol concentration detected in the exhaled air as higher than the concentration in the lung air. Even a minute amount of undigested alcohol in a DWI suspect’s mouth can have a significant impact on a breath test reading.

Breath fresheners contains trace amount of alcohol. Bodily functions such as hiccups, hiccups, burps, or even vomit can also affect the test results. Dental caps and bridges can capture alcohol in a crevice and be blown out by a breath. If you have acid reflux, alcohol can travel up from gastric distress

What is an “enhancement”?

A “sentence enhancement” is when the law requires stiffer penalties. Typical enhancement is a previous DUI conviction within the last 15 years. But other enhancement include having a minor in the vehicle, refusing to submit to chemical test, blood alcohol over a certain amount, etc.  Read our article on penalties of DUI.

I still have questions about my case. Do you offer free consultations?

The best source is to consult with an experienced DUI Attorney who knows the DC drunk driving laws. we are here to offer you the aggressive and dedicated representation you deserve. Contact DUI attorney Mark Rollins or Ada Chan today to learn more about how you can avoid serious DUI penalties. 202-455-5610