Washington, DC DUI, DWI, and OWI Blog

As a Washington, DC DUI lawyer, I often get asked from clients if it is possible to get a wet reckless or PBJ.


In Virginia and other states, it appears common for first offense DUI defendants to get their charges reduced to what is known as a wet reckless.  A wet reckless plea allows the defendant to plead to reckless driving where alcohol was factor.  A wet reckless charge is not technically a DUI offense so mandatory minimums won’t normally apply.   You may also be able to keep your driver’s license.


A lot of my client’s from Maryland ask if they can get a PBJ on their DC DUI charge.  A PBJ (short for probation before judgment) is where the defendant pleads guilty to a DUI and instead of being sentenced, is placed on probation for a period of time.  Upon successful completion of the probationary period, the charges are dismissed and you avoid a conviction on your record.  This may also be expunged from your record. The statue also states that a PBJ is not considered a conviction for the purpose of second or subsequent (repeat) DUIs.


Unfortunately, in the District of Columbia there is absolutely no way that you will be offered a wet reckless or a PBJ on a DUI charge.  The Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia doesn’t believe these remedies are appropriate for DUI cases.  It doesn’t matter what the facts of your case may be, at this point in time they don’t exist.

 

As a Washington, DC DUI boat lawyer, I understand that how unfairly boaters are sometimes treated by the police.

With the hot days of summer now upon us, it’s nice to get out on the water and cool down.  It can be a lot of lot of fun to spend a day boating on the Potomac or Anacostia rivers with friends and family.  Maybe do a little fishing or just sit out and relax.  Unfortunately, a good day can turn into a really bad day in a hurry if an overzealous member of the DC Harbor Patrol decides to perform a vessel safety check.  This would be the same harbor officers who sunk two yachts last year in Georgetown while making a U-turn.

A typical police report I see in DC DUI boating cases involves an officer who claims to see a beer bottle in the driver’s hand.  Interestingly, the officer is usually very far from the suspect when he happens to notice an alcoholic beverage.  The officer will then approach the boat to initiate a vessel safety inspection.

After finding no real violations (though there is usually some minor safety regulation an officer will find), the officer will tell you that he suspects you have been drinking and tow the boat to a local marina.  At this point, he or she will order you off the boat and ask you to take a field sobriety test.  Your balance will probably be affected by the fact that you were just on a rocking boat but the officer probably won’t let that stop him from administering the standardized field sobriety test which consists of balance exercises.

 

In the first part of this series, I talked about the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.  As a Washington, DC DUI Lawyer, I would like to discuss the Walk and Turn Test (WAT) in more detail.

The WAT is the second of three tests in the Standardized Field Sobriety Test Battery (SFSTs) developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  This is what my clients typically refer to as the “walking in a line test.”  According to NHTSA, the officer is supposed to instruct the DUI suspect to stand still, arms at his side, and not to move until instructed to do so.  The officer will then demonstrate three of the nine steps the driver is supposed to take, and then demonstrate “a proper turn consisting of a series of small steps,” followed by three steps back.  The driver is supposed to take nine steps during the actual test.  The steps are supposed to be heel to toe and along a real or imagined line.  It seems simple enough, but it is very hard for even sober people to do properly.

The officer is looking for a lot of things that he can score as “clues of impairment.”  The problem is that the DUI suspect doesn’t know what he is being graded on.   For example, if you break your feet apart while the officer is giving instructions, that counts against you.  If you lift your hands while you are walking, that counts against you.  If you make that ridiculously hard turn in an improper manner, that counts against you.  It is impossible to know if you passed unless you know how the test is scored.  This is why I said in the last blog entry, this isn’t like a math test – you don’t know how you are doing while taking the test.

It is for these reasons that when I hear the statement “I did fine on the walking test, but the officer said I failed,” things get complicated. However, things may not be as bad as they seem. While you may not know what counts against you while taking the test, the officer may be just as clueless.  I have seen many officers who, on the stand at trial, say they know how to score the standardized field sobriety tests only to admit they were mistaken when I confront them with their own training manual.

During a trial, an officer may testify that you were swaying during the instructional phase of the Walk and Turn Test.  When asked on cross examination if you broke your feet apart more than a half-inch, the officer may say that you did not. It is because he doesn’t know that the SFST manual tells him that is only a clue of impairment if the DUI suspect sways during the instructional phase AND breaks his or her feet apart more than a half-inch.  An experienced DUI lawyer will have the officer’s training manual ready at trial and may be more familiar with it than the officer.

In the next part of this post, I will discuss the One Legged Stand (OLS), which is the third part of the SFSTs.