DC Drinking and Driving Implied Consent Statute; submit or not to the blood alcohol content test?

Upon being stopped for suspected drinking and driving, and before being administrated or submitting to alcohol/drug detection devices, the police officer has to inform you explicitly as to your right to refuse test submission pursuant to DC Implied Consent Act.

DC Statute Sec. 50-1905 makes it clear that refusal to submit to two chemical tests pursuant to Sec. 15-1902 (blood, urine, or breath), will result in an automatic suspension of the driving privileges in the District for a period of 12 months.  Before suspension, the arresting officer has to submit an affidavit stating that the implied consent act was explained, and thereafter submission refused knowingly.  To prevent the automatic suspension, for DC residents, there has to be a written formal request to DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), within 10 days and for non DC residents, 15 days.  At the DMV administrative hearing, evidence can be presented to rebut automatic suspension especially if the criminal case has been dismissed, or a verdict of non-guilty is obtained.

On the criminal side, refusal has more impact.  Generally but not always, eliminates the first time offender treatment – the diversion program.   The diversion program allows in certain cases dismissal of the criminal case after completing certain diversionary measures, such as alcohol treatment/awareness programs, community service, etc.

Moreover, refusal to submit is admissible in the case in chief on both the criminal and civil proceedings as evidence of guilt.

If the person at the scene is unable to consent due to being unconscious or unable to knowingly consent, the test would be administered, and upon regaining consciousness, knowing refusal will eliminate use of the test result in court, however, will trigger test refusal treatment as highlighted above.

If you have no prior DUI or DWI  – or related alcohol/drugs driving convictions, and your blood alcohol level is not high, arguably by refusal you will complicate your chances of being offered division – first time offender treatment, and also, will have an uphill battle with the DMV hearing in preventing a mandatory period of driving privileges suspension.

On the other hand, if you have prior convictions, and this would constitute your second or third offense  — and you will most likely test with a high BAC (blood alcohol content), then the evidence obtained by the chemical tests can be very inculpatory.  Even without the chemical test results, the government can present evidence of intoxication by observation made and through a field sobriety test — and obtain a conviction – however, with a valid chemical test result, the government’s case is significantly stronger – and you may be unknowingly helping the government’s case by submitting, again, under the limited circumstances described above. 

It is always best not to drink and drive.

Categories: Criminal Defense.