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Chemical Testing in DUI Arrests

Understanding DUI Chemical Tests in DC & Virginia

In the District of Columbia, Virginia, and around the country, the police ask people to submit to chemical testing if they suspect the driver to be intoxicated or impaired and have been driving or have been in physical control of a car or other motor vehicle. This intoxication or impairment may be due to drugs, alcohol, or a combination of drugs and alcohol.

Refusing a Breath or Blood Test After Arrest

Once someone is arrested for a DUI in Virginia or the District of Columbia, they will be asked to submit specimens for chemical testing. Law enforcement officers may ask for blood, breath, or urine. If religious or medical grounds give someone a valid basis to object to a blood test, they may have the option of submitting breath or urine specimens for collection. They do not, however, have the option of refusing to provide a sample altogether.

Refusing to submit to chemical testing has both criminal and civil consequences. Criminal consequences depend on whether a person has prior alcohol-related offenses. When one has prior alcohol-related driving offenses on their record, a refusal can be charged as the crime of DUI or OWI. The criminal consequences also include both potential jail time and a fine. The civil consequences of a test refusal relate to suspending or revoking one’s driving privileges.

Implied Consent & Consequences

“Implied consent” is a term often associated with alcohol-related driving charges. Basically, it means that when someone is driving or in physical control of a car or other motor vehicle within the District of Columbia or Virginia, they are deemed to have given their consent to submitting samples for chemical testing to determine their alcohol and/or drug content. In DC, drivers are deemed to consent to submit two specimens of their blood, breath, or urine for sampling, while in Virginia, drivers are considered consensual to submitting blood and/or breath samples for testing.

Put another way, by driving or being in physical control of a car in the District of Columbia or Virginia, you impliedly agree to submit to testing if the police have reason to believe you might be intoxicated or your ability to drive has been impaired by the consumption of alcohol or a drug. The consequence of refusing to submit to chemical testing in the District of Columbia and Virginia include the revocation of one’s driver’s license for 12 months. If a person doesn’t have a valid driver’s license, the consequence is the denial of a driver’s license for 12 months from the date of the violation.

Additionally, the refusal to submit to chemical testing is admissible in any civil or criminal court proceeding (such as a criminal DUI or OWI charge). Finally, if the person refusing to provide a specimen for chemical testing has a prior conviction for DUI or OWI, there is a legal presumption that the person was, in fact, under the influence at the time they refused the test. While an individual can challenge that presumption, the government often begins its case with that fact presumed in their favor.

Problems with Chemical Tests Results

Because chemical testing is done by humans, there is a number of situations wherein the chemical test results may be inaccurate. For example, if the police collect blood, the collection method they use, including the type of blood tube used, could contaminate the sample. If the person collecting the sample uses an alcohol wipe to clean the suspected driver’s skin before collecting the sample, they could impact the test results. Failure to preserve the blood tube at the correct temperature could also affect the results.

All instruments used to measure data must be calibrated regularly to ensure the accuracy of the results. This includes any type of breathalyzer as well as any GC/MS instruments used for testing. Additionally, these instruments have maintenance schedules that must be adhered to according to the manufacturer.

Finally, the governments of DC and Virginia must establish a proper chain of custody to ensure the chemical test results are correctly tied to the sample provided by a specific person. In other words, there are any number of different ways the test results can be challenged, even if the chemical test results appear to indicate someone’s guilt.

Were You Charged for an Alcohol-Related Offense in DC or Virginia?

If you are facing an alcohol-related criminal charge or potential license suspension, turn to S.L. England, PLLC. Our attorney will represent you in license revocation proceedings in civil court and fight to protect your best interests and liberties in criminal court.

Contact us to discuss your case at (202) 759-2333!

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