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DUI Arrests in D.C. often Challenged Based on Probable Cause, Test Results

by | Sep 21, 2011

The story of District police officers Andrew Zabavsky and Jose Rodriguez illustrate the dangers of what happens when authorities play fast and loose with breathalyzer test results and other evidence in D.C. DUI arrests.

Zabavsky and Rodriguez were recognized for four years running by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, which hailed the high number of DUI arrests the pair filed in the Adams Morgan/Dupont Circle areas of the city. But when the officers became aware of problems with breath tests results, the officers say they were threatened for refusing to lie, according to the Washington Examiner.

The District has since quit using the machines after questions about calibration called into question hundreds of DUI cases.

D.C. DUI defense attorneys frequently challenge test results in drunk driving cases — both field sobriety tests and the results of breathalyzers. When these machines are not used properly, or are not properly maintained, faulty results can lead to unfair charges. While it appears the officers in this case conducted themselves well — even in the face of significant heat from superiors, members of council and the attorney general’s office — the issue of probable cause often arises in DUI stops — particularly when dealing with an officer who has been repeatedly recognized and awarded for making large numbers of DUI arrests.

In this case, as the officer’s explained, they made a conscious effort to focus on making DUI arrests, given the active night life and large number of clubs and bars in the area. But an officer must have reason to stop your vehicle. When an officer is awarded for making a large number of drunk driving arrests, it is often because he or she is playing fast and loose with probable cause.

Staking out bars and stopping vehicles leaving. Stopping work trucks after dark. Stopping cars for “swerving” within their own lane of travel. These are all examples of car stops that may lack probable cause.

Even in D.C., there are only a finite number of motorists driving under the influence. When one or two officers are knocking down DUI arrests at two or three times the pace of other members of the department, it should raise red flags with the department.

And it should provide a huge warning sign to an experienced D.C. drunk driving defense attorney.

If you are facing DUI charges in the District of Columbia, contact the Scrofano Law, PC for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call 202-765-3175 or fill out our online contact form. Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards accepted.