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DC Breathalyzers Back, Along With Tougher DUI Penalties

by | Aug 3, 2012

Breathalyzers are back in D.C. – and they’re accompanied by new legislation that increases the penalties for almost all DUIs, including first-time offenders, repeat offenders, high blood alcohol content offenders and commercial drivers.

D.C. DUI lawyers have been preparing for the new measures since last month, when the Comprehensive Impaired Driving Act of 2012 was passed by council as an emergency legislative measure.

Breathalyzer tests haven’t been in use in D.C. for nearly a year, after it was discovered that the devices produced inflated blood alcohol levels that resulted in approximately 400 faulty DUI convictions. Since then, police have been relying primarily on the more subjective field sobriety tests.

As a quality control measure for the new tests, patrol officers using the devices will have to acquire certification. Additionally, the department has purchased new equipment and the department has enacted additional oversight procedures, with a new council-created agency, the Department of Forensic Sciences, taking over quality control.  This could be problematic for those fighting new DUIs, though the results could still be challenged, particularly if a motorist could prove through restaurant or bar receipts that they haven’t had much to drink. And there are many other defenses — in fact, the establishment of new rules and procedures only provides more avenues of challenge for an experienced criminal defense attorney.

For those who are ultimately convicted, there are a number of new enhancements that will result in bigger fines and more jail time. Those include:

For first-time offenders, a 180-day maximum jail time and a $1,000 fine. Before, the maximum for first-time offenders was 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.

For repeat offenders or those who measure a blood alcohol concentration of higher than 0.20 percent (the legal limit is 0.08), you will have to serve a minimum 10 days behind bars.

Any motorist whose BAC measures .30 percent or higher will have to serve at least 20 days in jail.

For commercial drivers (those who drive limousines, buses, taxes or trucks) the legal limit has been reduced to 0.04 percent, as opposed to the previous 0.08 percent that had applied to everyone. Additionally, a conviction will mean an additional five-day minimum mandatory time in jail, tacked on to whatever other sanction you receive.

The new rules went into effect August 1st.

It’s also noteworthy that Virginia too recently enacted tougher DUI laws, with first-time offenders subject to an involuntary installation of the ignition interlock system, a costly piece of equipment that requires users to blow into a breathalyzer inside their personal vehicle before the vehicle will start.

Obviously the best way to beat a DUI conviction is not to drink alcohol before you get behind the wheel. However, if you are pulled over, you aren’t mandated to submit to a breath test, but you must understand that you will lose your license if you don’t. In some cases, it can be worth it to refuse the test if you know you will likely blow over the limit anyway. You do have the right to call a lawyer to discuss it before you submit to a test.

That said, there is a lot of false information out there about how you can “beat” a breathalyzer test. Those include things like putting a penny under your tongue, using mouthwash before you blow, drinking caffeine or eating. These are all false – won’t work, don’t even bother trying.

Still, your lawyer can sometimes get the results thrown out if the original stop was somehow faulty. Each case is going to be different.

If you are pulled over or arrested for DUI, make no statement to police about where you’re coming from, where you’re going or how much you’ve had to drink. Call an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.