Washington, DC DUI, DWI, and OWI Blog

The Arizona Court of Appeals has overturned an earlier ruling from a county superior court to toss breathalyzer test results on the basis of faulty equipment and questionable lab practices.

Our D.C. DUI defense lawyers were disappointed with the latest ruling in Arizona v. Tohannie. It was a matter that concerned 11 defendants in the Scottsdale region of the state. However, it may still have the potential for a greater impact if the defense challenges to these issues are further appealed or similarly argued by attorneys in other jurisdictions.

According to court records, these defendants each brought a series of the same issues before the court in the course of their DUI defense. Central to all of these claims was the validity of results a certain instrument, known as the Clarus 500. This machine processes biological evidence (specifically, blood) in order for use in DUI prosecutions.

These cases were consolidated, and over the course of four months, the court held a series of hearings to determine whether the scientific evidence met the Daubert standards. This is a standard stemming from the case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals in 1993. It lays forth guidelines for determining whether certain expert scientific testimony or evidence should be admitted.

Among the guidelines established:

  • The judge must determine that, more likely than not, the evidence is both relevant and reliable.
  • In order to qualify as scientific knowledge, it has to be based upon sound scientific methodology.
  • In determining what is sound scientific methodology, the judge can look at the presence (or absence) of empirical testing, peer review and publication, known or potential error rates, existence and maintenance of standards and controls in operation and the degree to which the relevant scientific community generally accepts the theory or technique.
The court found that gas chromatography (the technology used by the Clarus 500) were accepted within the scientific community.
The question then became whether the methods and/or actions by the crime lab in daily operations of testing these devices were sufficiently reliable as to comply with the rules of evidence.
Following all of the evidence presented, the superior court judge determined that defense attorneys were right, and that the equipment used by police to process blood from DUI suspects was faulty, its lab practices failing to pass scientific muster. Among some of the problems noted were that the equipment often mislabeled vials, sometimes with incorrect numbers and names. In other cases, the machine became inoperable in the middle of tests.
Prosecutors then filed an appeal of this ruling, arguing that the judge had misunderstood the state's rules of evidence, and further that defense attorneys had failed to prove any systematic problems with the case. Any issues, they said, were isolated incidents.
A three-judge appellate panel recently sided with prosecutors, finding that none of the defense lawyers were able to show that the results of their particular tests were inaccurate. Any claims about the evidence being problematic, they said, should be resolved in criminal court trials on an individual basis. The judges stated that at each trial, every defendant has the opportunity to cross-examine and present evidence about specific deficiencies about test results that are at issue.
That kind of diligence - whether in Arizona or D.C. - requires a defense attorney who is dedicated to fighting for you.
If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716.

After a 27-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed in New York by a driver who had admitted to drinking prior to the crash, it seemed in inevitable that the driver would be charged with DUI manslaughter.

But he wasn't, despite a fair amount of criticism from numerous media outlets.

Later, in a brief statement, the district attorney's office revealed that it was because n accident reconstruction expert determined that alcohol wasn't a contributing factor in the crash that led to the woman's death. The details of the reconstructionist's report have not yet been publicly released.

This case is an example of what our D.C. DUI defense lawyers often point to as a key element in situations where there is damage, injury or death: Just because a person was drinking prior to driving or even drunk behind the wheel does not mean they caused the crash.

There is an automatic tendency to assume that if a driver in a crash was intoxicated, they are responsible. This is not always true.

The reality is that people are constantly making poor decisions behind the wheel - or while walking, biking, etc. They may be stone-cold sober and still make a bad choice.

If that person collides with someone who happens to be drunk, it doesn't automatically make the drunk person at-fault.

In this case, it's the difference between a 15-year sentence on a felony charge and a possible 1-year sentence on a misdemeanor charge.

In D.C., a drunk driving vehicular homicide charge can result in a prison term of anywhere from 0 to 30 years. That's obviously a huge gap.

While prosecutors may thoroughly investigate most cases, you can't always count on them to spend the time and money for accident reconstruction each and every time. This is particularly so if the crash did not result in a death. (Even DUI accidents that result in property damage or injury can result in substantial penalties and fines.)

This is where your DUI defense lawyer is critical. In addition to having an expansive knowledge of the complexities of DUI law, an experienced DUI lawyer has extensive contacts with those who specialize in accident reconstructions and can help prove what really happened.

In this case, according to reports, the crash happened shortly after midnight on July 5 last year in New York City. The woman was walking near an intersection when she was reportedly struck by a sedan driven by the defendant. The woman was rushed to the hospital, where she died five days later.

According to The New York Post, the driver stayed on the scene. He reportedly revealed to investigating officers that he had consumed six beers at a family Fourth of July gathering prior to the wreck. His blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.126, well above the legal limit.

He was still charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a misdemeanor. He later pleaded guilty to this charge.

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

Fighting a D.C. DUI charge is not always easy, as police and prosecutors have become increasingly meticulous in the way they collect and present evidence.

Penalties for a first-time DUI offense in D.C. are also heavier than ever before, so the stakes are higher.

Unfortunately, many defendants end up making the situation worse in a number of ways. Most commonly, those include resisting arrest, fleeing and eluding and sometimes, assaulting an officer.

In D.C., assault on an officer can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the injury the officer suffered.

Most of the time, when people think "assault," they think of some violent act of aggression. However, the definition of assault on  an officer under D.C. Criminal Code 22-405 is quite broad - which is why we so often see it in the course of handling DUI cases.

The law allows that anyone can be charged under this statute if he or she, without excusable or justifiable cause, "assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates or interferes" with a law enforcement officer who is engaged in the performance of his or her duties.

In order to prove this charge, prosecutors have to show that the action was not a mistake or accident and that the defendant knew or had reason to know that the complainant was an officer.

As a misdemeanor, this charge carries up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. This can be upped to a felony with a maximum 10-year prison term if the action causes significant bodily harm to the officer.

Often, a DUI defendant charged with assault on an officer is reacting to the situation with panic or responding to an officer's rudeness or even mistreatment. In some cases, overzealous officers file this charge without cause. There are a fair number of these situations in which a person accused of assaulting an officer weren't actually violent or physically aggressive toward the officer.

In fact, there was an example recently in which a D.C. patrol officer who used excessive force - and then lied about it in his official reports. He was recently sentenced to two years probation for assault and excessive force on a store employee. Originally, the officer arrested the worker for assault on a police officer. Were it not for the existence of a store surveillance camera that showed the officer to be the true aggressor, that charge might have stuck.

In a traffic stop situation, you can't always count on that kind of evidence. That's why it's important to have an experienced lawyer who can help you uncover all your potential defense options.

No matter what the circumstances, a conviction on a charge like this could have lifelong consequences - even if it is only filed as a misdemeanor. It will remain permanently on your record, visible to prospective schools and employers and anyone else who inquires about your background.

We strongly advise during any traffic stop to remain calm, cooperative and quiet. Practicing these won't necessarily help you avoid arrest, but it will improve the odds that your defense attorney will be able to successfully have the charges reduced or dismissed.

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