D.C.’s Implied Consent Laws: Refusing a Blood, Breath, or Urine Test

The rules and penalties for DUI chemical test refusals in the District of Columbia.

In Washington, D.C., any driver who's lawfully arrested for impaired driving is required to provide two samples of breath, blood, or urine to determine the presence and amount of drugs or alcohol. While these results can be used to prove impairment at a DUI trial, refusal to provide samples will also result in penalties. This article explains when a test is required and the repercussions of an unlawful refusal.

Required Alcohol and Drug Testing

A driver who's been lawfully arrested for driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, or operating while impaired must submit to breath, blood, or urine testing at the request of an officer. Washington D.C. requires two tests to ensure accuracy and that all substances can be tested for (a breath test won't detect drugs). Drivers with a valid medical or religious for refusing to a take a blood test are permitted to instead take a breath or urine test. But otherwise, the type of test will be decided by the officer.

Consequences of Refusing BAC Testing

Officers generally can't force drivers who refuse to take a test (unless the case involves a fatality). However, a refusal will result in a notice of suspension.

License suspension. Drivers who refuse a lawful request by an officer to take a chemical test will have their license revoked for 12 months. However, an occupational license may be available to the driver, which affords limited driving privileges.

Evidentiary uses. While refusing a chemical test may limit the evidence available for prosecution, the fact that a driver refused testing can be admitted at trial to prove culpability. And if the refusing driver had a prior impaired driving conviction, the court can assume that the driver was impaired based on the refusal. So, even without chemical test results, a person can still be convicted of driving under the influence.


Unless appealed by the driver, the license revocation will go into effect ten days after the driver receives the notice of suspension. The driver must request an appeal hearing within ten days of receiving notice. At the hearing, the hearing agent will review the record to ensure the officer gave the proper notices and had reasonable grounds to believe the driver was impaired. If the hearing agent finds all was in order, the revocation will be immediately effective. However, the driver can still petition for review by a court.

Talk to an Attorney

The penalties for a refusal are administrative and the time limits for appeal are strict. If you are facing license revocation due to a DUI incident, consult with an attorney immediately regarding your rights and the best course of action.

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