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Washington, D.C., drivers subjected to a "broken system"

Washington, D.C., is the seat of federal law, but it is also gathering a lot of criticism for the way the local legal system is handling cases of suspected driving while impaired and driving under the influence. After it was discovered that the District's Breathalyzers were not properly calibrated and that people who had been convicted of drunk driving may not have been intoxicated, police have removed the Breathalyzer program altogether, leaving drivers vulnerable to a "broken system."

Since the Breathalyzers have forced the Attorney General's office to re-open hundreds of convictions because of faulty breath test results, the D.C. Police Department has been using even less-accurate urine tests to check for inebriation. When an officer believes that a driver has been driving while impaired, he or she will first administer field sobriety tests. If the officer believes the driver failed the test, the driver will be arrested and forced to take a urine test.

My FOX DC reports, however, that the urine test will confirm whether a person was drinking, but it is unclear how accurate the urine test is to determine whether the driver was legally intoxicated.

The chief of police has said that a new attempt to use Breathalyzers in the field will not be put into effect for at least six months.

While drivers in Washington, D.C., may not think a drunk driving charge is that serious, there are harsh consequences for a conviction, making it all-the-more important that police only have the most accurate evidence when pushing for a conviction. If a driver is erroneously convicted, he or she could lose his or her driver's license, pay a steep fine or even spend time in jail, all because the police used an unreliable breath or urine test.

For more information, please read this previous post about faulty Breathalyzer tests.

Source: My FOX DC, "DC Attorney General Says DC Having Trouble Prosecuting DWI Drivers," Paul Wagner, March 2, 2012

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Law Offices of
James N. Papirmeister, Esq.

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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013