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District of Columbia Drugged Driving

In the District of Columbia, a person is guilty of a DUI if he or she operates any vehicle while under the influence of any drug. D.C. Code § 50-2201.05(b)(1)(A)(i)(II) (2010).

Implied Consent

  • Any person who operates a motor vehicle within the District shall be deemed to have given his or her consent to 2 chemical tests of the person's blood, urine, or breath, for the purpose of determining blood-alcohol content or blood-drug content. Id. § 50-1902(a)-(b).
  • If a person under arrest refuses to submit to chemical testing, the officer must inform the driver that their license will be revoked for one year if they do not submit to chemical testing. If after have been informed, the driver still refuses, no test shall be given, and the officer shall immediately revoke the driver's license. Id. § 50-1905.
  • Evidence of such refusal shall be admissible in any related civil or criminal proceedings. Id. § 50-1905, 1906.
  • Refusal of motorist arrested for DUI to take chemical test was evidence from which a judge could infer a consciousness of guilt. Karamychev v. District of Columbia, 772 A.2d 806 (2001).
  • Police refusal to let defendant consult with legal counsel before deciding whether to take chemical tests did not violate his rights. District of Columbia v. Lynn, 111 WLR 2149 (Super. Ct. 1983).
  • The person tested may, in addition to submitting to the 2 tests administered at the direction of a police officer, also submit to chemical test(s) administered to him by a qualified person of his own choosing. The failure or inability to obtain an additional test by a person shall not preclude the admission of the tests taken at the direction of a police officer. D.C. Code § 50-1903 (2010).
  • Protections do not apply if the driver is involved in a motor vehicle accident. Id. § 50-1906.

Penalties

  • First offense - fine of $300; possible imprisonment for not more than 90 days. Id. § 50-2201.05 (b)(1)(A)(ii).
  • Second offense (w/i 15 years) - fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000; imprisonment for not more than one year and not less than a mandatory-minimum of 5 days; the court may impose a sentence of at least 30 days of community service; one year license suspension. Id. § 50-2201.05 (b)(1)(B)(i), (iii).
  • Third and subsequent offense(w/i 15 years) - fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $10,000; imprisonment for not more than one year, but not less than a mandatory-minimum of 10 days; offender may be required to perform at least 60 days of community service; two year license suspension. Id. § 50-2201.05 (b)(1)(C)(i), (iii).

Other Penalties & Penalty Enhancers

  • DUI while transporting a person 17 years of age or younger shall carry an additional minimum fine of $500 and not more than $1000 and 48 hours of community service benefiting children for the first such offense and 80 hours of community service for a subsequent such offense. Id. § 50-2201.05 (b)(1)(D).

Sobriety Checkpoints

The District of Columbia allows law enforcement officials to conduct roadblocks under the Federal Constitution.

  • Police roadblock was sufficiently productive of Government's interests in checking for expected problems of motorists operating without permits, operating after revocation and operating with impaired mobility to drive to satisfy roadblock requirement that there be more than complete absence of data indicating effectiveness; arrests occurred involving approximately 2.4% of stopped vehicles. Galberth v. U.S.,590 A.2d 990(D.C.,1991).
  • Although the principal purpose of a checkpoint is to check license and registration, the fact that the effort has an added benefit of deterring drunk driving and/or drug trafficking does not make it invalid. Duncan v. U.S., 629 A.2d 1 (D.C. App. 1993).

Case Law

Thomas v. District of Columbia, 942 A.2d 645 (2008) -- A person is guilty of driving under the influence of a marijuana if he or she is impaired to the slightest degree, either mentally or physically or both, and unable to use the clear judgment and/or coordination necessary to handle an automobile. Defendant had bloodshot eyes, was sweating, and failed sobriety tests. Officers also noted that there was a piece of paper that looked like a smoked joint in defendant's car. Defendant refused to submit to urinalysis testing, and was convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana, notwithstanding the lack of chemical evidence.

Staten v. U.S., 562 A.2d 90 (1989) – After a lawful stop for an illegal U-turn and subsequent arrest for DUI, police officers were entitled to search the interior of the automobile, including locked glove compartment.

Karamychev v. District of Columbia, 772 A.2d 806 (2001) -- Refusal of motorist arrested for DUI to take chemical test was evidence from which a judge could infer a consciousness of guilt.

District of Columbia v. Sellers, 117 WLR 1017 (1989) – The offense of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a drug requires a causal relationship between the presence of a drug in a person's body and the manner in which the person is operating a motor vehicle at the time of the traffic offense.





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