Washington, DC DUI, DWI, and OWI Blog

In the constant hustle and bustle of traffic within the District of Columbia, fender benders are commonplace.  Accidents happen because people are prone to basic human error.  Nevertheless, these accidents can be stressful and often scary for some people.  As a result, people may panic and leave the scene of an accident before exchanging information or waiting on a police officer to arrive.  Those people are now not only facing an insurance claim but also a criminal conviction for Leaving After Colliding (LAC).

LAC arrests frequently happen in conjunction with DUI or DWI arrests.  For example, one night you are driving home after having a couple of drinks with your friends and you hit a pothole which causes you to accidently sideswipe a parked car.  After inspecting the parked car for damage and seeing that there is only a minor scratch, you continue on your way home.  Unbeknownst to you, a cop sitting on a nearby corner witnesses what happened and pulls you over.  Now, you are looking at a DUI or DWI charge and an LAC charge because you left the scene without waiting for a police officer to show up.  As reported by the Washington Post, an unfortunate example of this arose on New Year’s Eve of this year when a drunk driver hit multiple individuals and continued driving until a pole forced his vehicle to stop.  Not only was the individual charged with DUI but he was also charged with LAC.

Drunk driving in Washington, DC is a crime and there is no denying that.  However, even judges will say that unlike other DC criminal offenses, people seem to think it is okay to drive drunk since everyone does, even though that is not a valid excuse.

While it may not be a valid excuse, it does seem like it might hold some truth.  According to a recent news article from the Washington Post, a DC police captain was just arrested for DUI involving an accident in SE Washington, DC.  Authorities have said the police captain is a nearly 30 year veteran of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and was currently assigned to the Seventh District.  At the time of his arrest, he was not on duty and was driving his privately owned vehicle.  Reports indicate that the alleged drunk driving car accident occurred just before 10 p.m. on the 2300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue in Southeast Washington, DC.  The defendant allegedly crashed into another car from the rear, which caused the front vehicle to crash into another car.  One of the vehicles damaged in the crash belonged to the United States government.

Many people come in for a DUI defense consult and tell me that they know they passed the field sobriety tests, yet the cops arrested them anyway.  Before we get to what it means to pass the tests, it is important to understand what these tests are and why they matter.  

There are only three accepted and approved field sobriety tests; they make up a test battery known as the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs).  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed these tests in the 1970s at the urging of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as part of a national effort to curb drunk driving.
Prior to the development of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, officers would try anything they could to get people to fail, even if it was not possible to pass these tests.  For example, on the standard police form used in DUI arrests in Washington, DC, called a 163A, there was a test known as the “finger touch”.  Essentially, you would be instructed to touch your thumb and your index together and say “one” aloud.