When conducting a DUI investigation, officers typically ask drivers to take a blood, breath, or urine test. Test results that show a driver had drugs or alcohol in their system can then be used by prosecutors to prove a DUI charge in court. But how do officers get drivers to agree to take one of these tests? That's where Washington D.C.'s implied consent law comes into play.
This article covers D.C.'s implied consent law and the consequences of refusing to take a drug or alcohol test.
Washington D.C.'s implied consent law requires any driver who's lawfully arrested for impaired driving to provide two samples of breath, blood, or urine if asked to do so by an officer. Washington D.C. requires drivers to take 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 take a blood test are permitted to instead take a breath or urine test. Otherwise, the officer gets to choose which tests the driver must take.
Drivers who unlawfully refuse testing generally face certain consequences.
Officers generally can't force drivers who refuse to take a test (unless the case involves a fatality). However, a refusal will result in license 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.
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.