Driving home after a few drinks may seem commonplace and harmless. However, should you have the proverbial “one too many” cocktails, you could face serious legal complications if law enforcement pulls you over due to suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Operating a vehicle in the District requires you to give consent to breathalyzer testing if you get stopped by the Metropolitan Police Department. However, testing, a key component in pursuing DUI convictions, is not mandatory, and you can refuse it.
What law enforcement can do after pulling you over
Pursuing a conviction of drunk driving forces law enforcement authorities to prove that you drove while under the influence of alcohol. While breath test results are paramount for them to prove their case, other criminal laws allow the government to interpret a refusal as proof of intoxication.
Threading that needle requires the officer who pulled you over to prove you were driving drunk. They could claim that your actions were akin to a drunk driver. They may claim they detected an alcohol smell or problems with taking Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs).
The perils second-time offenders face
Second-time offenders are under a different and more challenging standard. Juries can presume that refusal of breath testing is a strong sign that you are intoxicated. Referred to as a rebuttal presumption, you must prove that you were not drunk. Failing to convince a jury of that could result in a guilty verdict based on your refusal alone.
Just as sobriety testing does not equate to intoxication, an arrest does not mean you will automatically be convicted. Help from a skilled DUI defense attorney can mean the difference between criminal convictions and being cleared of charges.