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License Suspension: A D.C. DUI Consequence

by | Feb 11, 2014

When the defendant in the recent case of People v. Elliott was arrested for driving under the influence, it was only the start of his troubles.

One of the consequences of that stop was that he received a summary revocation of his driving privileges for failure to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test. Similar consequences are meted out during D.C. DUI stops for violation of implied consent laws, though per D.C. Code 50-1902, refusal to submit will result in an automatic one-year license suspension, not a revocation. (The primary difference between a suspension and a revocation is that a suspension is for a limited time, while a revocation is forever unless a request to reinstate is approved by the state’s secretary of state.)

Implied consent means that simply by virtue of the fact that you are driving, you agree to be tested for alcohol or drugs if you are asked to do so by an officer with probable cause that you may be operating a vehicle under the influence.

The suspension or revocation will stand regardless of whether you are later found guilty of DUI.

Still, one must take into consideration the possibility that if you are convicted of a DUI, your license could be suspended anyway. That drug or alcohol test will almost assuredly be used as evidence against you in your DUI case. What this means is that DUI defendants have to weigh the options. If you aren’t drunk, submitting to the breathalyzer makes sense. However, if you know  you are drunk, you have to make a judgment call regarding the seriousness of the charges against you and how big of a factor the breathalyzer or chemical test is likely to be in the pending case.

For example, if you were driving drunk and strike another vehicle causing someone serious injury, you will likely be facing a felony DUI charge. In these cases, you have to weigh whether the automatic suspension that comes with a refusal is worth it to potentially deprive the officer of evidence against you in the felony case that could result in years behind bars. (Bear in mind, however, that police do have the option of obtaining a warrant to force you to undergo a chemical test, but your clear refusal will be important later if the basis for that warrant turns out to be faulty.)

According to Illinois Supreme Court records in the Elliott case, the DUI case defendant later sought to have his summary revocation rescinded. Between the time the revocation was issued and the time it was rescinded, the defendant was pulled over and cited for driving under a suspended license.

Six days after that, the county granted his petition to rescind the revocation. Four days after that, the state secretary of state entered a notice and order of recission, which removed the summary revocation from his driving record. He then filed a motion asking the circuit court to dismiss his citation for driving on a suspended license, arguing the citation no longer had a valid legal basis.

The county court rejected this argument, and the defendant was found guilty of driving on a suspended license. He appealed, and the appellate court reversed. But then the state supreme court reversed that finding, reinstating the conviction and holding that the secretary of state’s order was only of prospective effect, meaning it could not be applied retroactively.

In D.C., if your license has been suspended, you are going to have to pay reinstatement fees and probably complete a series of certain conditions before you are allowed to drive again. If you are caught driving while your license is revoked or suspended, it is considered a criminal offense, for which the penalty is up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, per D.C. Code 50-2302.02.

Fighting a charge of driving under a suspended license or DUI – or both – can be complicated matters. Specific laws may vary from state-to-state, but the stakes are high no matter what. We can help.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.