Washington, DC DUI, DWI, and OWI Blog

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Illinois Supreme Court records in the Elliott case, the DUI case defendant later sought to have his summary revocation rescinded. Between the time the revocation was issued and the time it was rescinded, the defendant was pulled over and cited for driving under a suspended license.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 Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716.

The recent DUI arrest of Justin Bieber in Florida has inevitably sparked global headlines because the singer is famous (or infamous, depending on your source).

Aside from details like Bieber was driving a Lamborghini and off-duty officers may have escorted the teen to strip clubs without authorization earlier that night, the case reflects a lot off the same issues that D.C. DUI defense lawyers see regularly in first-time DUI cases.

One of those pertains to alleged marijuana intoxication.

This has been something of particular interest throughout the U.S. following the passage of laws in both Colorado and Washington that legalized the drug for recreational purposes. Some 20 other states as well as the District, have approved the substance for medicinal purposes only.

All of this has given rise to intense debate about what marijuana intoxication is, how on-scene police officers can determine it and what threshold of proof prosecutors must have to win a conviction.

In D.C., marijuana intoxication is essentially no different than alcohol intoxication when it comes to DUI.

While some debate whether marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol in terms of use by drivers, the bottom line is that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any substance, legal or otherwise.

The key difference when we're talking about marijuana intoxication versus alcohol intoxication is how it is proven. A person's level of alcohol intoxication is typically tested by some combination of a breathalyzer or blood test and field sobriety tests. A blood test tends to be the most accurate form of measurement, offering authorities an idea of how much alcohol-by-volume a person has in his or her blood.

Generally, when a person's blood-alcohol level exceeds the 0.08 percent mark, it's probably a fair statement that the alcohol consumption was fairly recent.

However, the same cannot be said when it comes to marijuana intoxication. Because marijuana takes longer for the body to process, it may be present in the blood for days or even weeks after consumption. Particularly in cases where a person is a heavy user (for example, a medical marijuana patient), a person's blood-THC volume may be deemed "high," but it doesn't necessarily mean the driver was intoxicated at the time of the stop.

Field sobriety tests are frequently used, but these are largely subjective measures of intoxication.

So another powerful indicator is the confession of the driver.

In Bieber's case, he reportedly made statements to the officer indicating that he had consumed marijuana immediately prior to getting behind the wheel of that car. There is no indication officers were specifically looking for evidence of marijuana intoxication, so Bieber's statement served only to hurt his own defense.

Still, even marijuana DUI cases in which the defendant has offered a confession are not necessarily un-winnable. There is always the possibility that the confession wasn't obtained appropriately or that it may not be enough in and of itself to prove intoxication.

Anyone arrested on suspicion of marijuana DUI in D.C. should seek the advice of an experienced defense lawyer.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716.

Justin Bieber has been arrested for DUI, causing a media firestorm, with many speculating it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

The teen heartthrob is facing charges of drunken driving, resisting arrest and also driving without a valid license. It's possible reckless driving charges may also follow, as police reportedly stopped Bieber after they allegedly spotted him drag racing in Miami Beach.

Our D.C. DUI defense lawyers know that Bieber has a couple of things working against him at the moment. Many of those are the same kind of pitfalls to which so many other first-time DUI defendants fall prey.

The first, which he can't do much about, is his fame. Any allegation of wrongdoing made against him, no matter how weak, would have created an intense media interest. As such, police and prosecutors, not wanting to appear soft on crime, are likely to take a hard line with the star. But this would have been all the more reason for him to more carefully measure his response to the situation.

Specifically, it is alleged that Bieber's copped a confrontational attitude toward officers who stopped him that night. He reportedly swore at the officer who stopped him shortly before 4 a.m. on a Thursday. In an expletive-laden exchange, the teen reportedly demanded to know, "What the F*** did I do?"

This may (or may not) have been a valid question at the time. However, exchanges of this tone rarely win favor with police. In fact, the officer arresting him described the 19-year-old as "belligerent."It's tough to say whether the officer might have let him off with a warning had Bieber been more respectful. But it certainly wouldn't have hurt. At the very least, Bieber, who the officers said failed to comply with numerous instructions, might have avoided a resisting arrest charge.

This underscores that almost without exception, the best thing to do if you are pulled over is to be as quiet possible. Keep in mind too that being "cooperative" doesn't mean you have to be talkative. It seems the singer might have confused these two, as he is alleged to have conceded to the arresting officer that he had drank alcohol, smoke marijuana and consumed prescription medication shortly before getting behind the wheel of a borrowed Lamborghini.

This is the kind of evidence that will almost certainly be used against him. There is no indication that the officer would have preformed a drug test on Bieber had he not made this confession, so all this did was give prosecutors a stronger case.

Plus, the more a defendant speaks, the more evidence he or she may be providing to officers. In this case, the arresting officer noted that Bieber's eyes were bloodshot, his face was flushed (probably attributable at least in part to his growing agitation of the situation) and his breath smelled of alcohol. This will all be used against him in court.

Another mistake Bieber may have made was in submitting to a sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are a subjective determination of intoxication. That is, while they may have a basis in science, they are largely predicated on the potentially flawed and prejudiced observations of the arresting officer. Unlike chemical tests, there are rarely hard-and-fast measurements to prove intoxication. Unless a person is stone-cold sober, these tests rarely serve to help a defendant's case.

The driver of the vehicle with whom Bieber had been reportedly racing was also arrested for DUI, according to media reports.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716.