DC DUI Frequently Asked Questions
This information is not intended to serve as legal advice and is for educational purposes only.
Do I have to blow into the breath machine?
This question is complicated, but the short answer is no. However, if you refuse to blow into the breathalyzer or submit to a urine or blood sample, the DC Department of Motor Vehicles can suspend your license for one year. Although any arrest or conviction for DUI or DWI in DC can result in a loss of license for at least six months anyway. The refusal may add another six months. However, most DC DUI judges will give probation to first time offenders. However, if your breath score is above a .20, then that triggers mandatory minimum jail time under the law. That means even if the judge only wants you to give you probation, she must give you some mandatory minimum time. The 2012 law also prevents this time from being served on the weekends. DUI is the only crime where the law literally requires you to incriminate yourself while police investigate you or be punished.
Do I have to take the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (or “SFST’s”)?
No legal requirement exists to take SFST’s. In fact, doing so only provides the government with more evidence to use against you at trial. In any encounter with the police, its smart to be polite and treat them with respect. Refusing to take the SFSTs will likely result in an arrest for DUI. However, if the police ask someone to step outside the vehicle to take the SFST’s, they have usually made their mind up at this point to make an arrest anyway.
What is a Notice of Proposed Revocation?
This question is very important and has serious implications for the driving privileges of someone arrested for DUI. If you have a DC driver’s license and the police arrest you for DUI, the police are supposed to give you a piece of paper called a Notice of Proposed Revocation. Read the Notice carefully and follow the instructions. If you do not physically go to the DMV and request a hearing within ten days, your license will be suspended for six months. If you have an out of state driver’s license, you have fifteen days to request the hearing. If you do not, your DC driving privileges will be suspended. That means you could have a valid Maryland license and get pulled over in DC and still be arrested for Operating After Revocation because your DC privileges are revoked. At Scrofano Law PC, we go to the DMV for our clients and request the hearings on n their behalf.
Do I need a lawyer for a DUI or DWI arrest?
Anyone arrested for DUI should absolutely hire an experienced DC DUI lawyer who can properly advise them of all their options and fight to protect their rights. DUI’s are the most serious misdemeanor someone can be charged with in DC. It’s the only misdemeanor that carries mandatory minimum jail time in certain circumstances (even for first offenders). Conviction for DUI can result in loss of license, loss of employment, exorbitant insurance premiums, and a number of other collateral consequences.
What will happen to my driver’s license if I am arrested for DUI or DWI in DC?
The answer to this question depends on whether you have a DC driver’s license or an out of state license. First and foremost, if you have a DC driver’s license and you get arrested for DUI or DWI, you can lose your license just for the arrest. Its important to request a hearing with the DC Department of Motor Vehicles (or “DMV”) within ten business days of your arrest. Doing that will stop the license suspension from taking effect. It will then be up to a hearing examiner at DMV to decide whether to suspend the license or not based on the testimony of the arresting officer. At the very least, requesting the hearing will at least postpone the license suspension. If convicted for DUI, you can lose your DC license for six months to one year.
And what if I have an out of state license?
People with an out of state license who get arrested in DC for a DUI or DWI have fifteen calendar days to request a hearing. Its important to request that hearing even with an out of state license because the person arrested can lose their driving privileges in DC. What that means is even if you have a valid out of state license, if you get pulled over in DC, you could be arrested for Operating after Suspension (or “OAS”). OAS itself is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a five thousand dollar fine. Depending on your home state laws and regulations, you could also lose your license. If convicted for DUI, most out of state DMV’s will suspend the person’s license as well. Most times it depends on whether the appropriate paperwork gets sent from DC to the out of state DMV.
The police never read me my rights; can I get my case dismissed?
Even if the police officers do not read you your rights, the government can still prosecute you for any crime. Police officers are supposed to advise people of their rights upon making an arrest. If they fail to do so, and they elicit incriminating information from someone who is in custody, there may be a remedy at trial. The potential remedy would be having your DC DUI lawyer file a motion to suppress any statements. If the motion is successful, then the government could not use the statements made while in custody against you but will not result in dismissal of the charges.
What should I look for in selecting a DC DUI and DWI lawyer?
The consequences for a DUI conviction can involve jail, probation, fines, loss of driving privileges as well as a number of other collateral consequences including exorbitant insurance premiums. Accordingly, its important you look for a lawyer with experience trying cases in DC Superior Court who is familiar with the process and the players, including judges and prosecutors. Its important to have someone who will focus on your case and be responsive to your questions and concerns. These cases mostly follow similar patterns and an experienced DUI lawyer can typically give you a range of possible outcomes from best case to worst case scenario.
What if I blew less than a 0.08 on the breath machine?
Unfortunately, the best you can do in that situation is win at trial or get the case dismissed through some other technicality. The government might offer you a Deferred Sentencing Agreement, which depending on the other facts in the case, may be worth taking. There are two ways to prove alcohol driving related offenses. The first is the DWI method, which relies solely on a chemical score above a 0.08 (or 0.10 for a urine test). The second method is DUI, which is where the government can prove someone was intoxicated by other factors such as poor performance on the SFST’s, slurred speech, and strong odor of alcohol. Even with a low chemical score, the government will go forward on the case under the DUI method of proof.
Does the officer have to show up to my court date?
The first court date in a DUI prosecution in DC is the arraignment. The arraignment is just a formal reading of the charges where the attorney will plead not guilty on the defendant’s behalf and assert all constitutional rights. The officer is not required to show up to that court date. In fact, the only court date the officer has to show up to is the trial. In many instances, the case can get dismissed if the officer does not show up (however, some judges may just continue the trial to a different date). Even if the case gets dismissed, its usually done without prejudice, which means the government can re-bring the case later. Again, the government is relentless in its DUI prosecutions, which is why its extremely important you hire a DC DUI and DWI attorney who has experience successfully fighting these cases.
What kind of rates does Scrofano Law PC charge for DC DUI defense?
At Scrofano Law, we only charge flat fees for DUI cases. The fee will be customized to the facts of each case. A case where someone is a repeat offender makes the case jury demandable. Again, much more work is involved in preparing for a jury trial than a bench trial in front of a judge and will result in a higher flat fee. Bottom line: we customize a flat fee based on the amount of work a case will take–nothing more, nothing less. Contact us today for a full consultation.