DC Chemical Testing FAQs

Do I have to submit to chemical or breath tests if I am stopped for DUI or DWI?

You are not “formally” tested for intoxicants at the time you are stopped, though the officer may be able to run a preliminary breath test (PBT) with the use of a portable Breathalyzer or similar testing device. PBT results cannot be used as evidence in court, but they can provide probable cause to arrest you on suspicion of DUI.
You do have the right to refuse these tests. But that refusal can result in the revocation of your driver’s license for 12 months – even if you are not convicted of DUI.  If you are convicted, the fact that you refused to take a BAC test may weigh heavier on your sentence, including increased jail time and fines. [Section 50-1904.02]

Am I entitled to speak with an attorney before taking a breath, blood, or urine test?

You have the right to be silent and speak with an attorney the moment you are being investigated for any crime: felony or misdemeanor. Respectfully declining an officer’s questions in the course of a criminal investigation until you can speak with an attorney or have one present is in your best interest. However, in the case of a DUI investigation – when suspected drunk drivers must be tested within a limited time span – waiting for your attorney may not be the most practical option. Understand that if you refuse to submit to the tests until your attorney can reached, you face possible consequences, such as the automatic suspension of your license.

What does implied consent mean?

In DC, it means that all drivers when operating their vehicle in the District of Columbia automatically agree to undergo chemical testing of their breath, blood, or urine if they are suspected of DUI [Section 50-1904.02(a)] and [Section 50-2206.51]. The officer, however, must have established probable cause to ask the driver to submit to a test. They can’t make the request without it. At the time of your stop, you may not be able to argue this point. A dedicated DUI attorney will know how to pursue a dismissal of your charges based upon this argument should that apply to your case.

Is it possible to avoid a conviction if I fail a Breathalyzer or chemical test?

Yes. Results from chemical and Breathalyzer tests can be surprisingly flawed and inaccurate. The devices must be properly calibrated and maintained at all times. Failure to do so can trigger inaccurate results, which a well-qualified DC DUI attorney will know how to challenge. An experienced attorney will also know how to challenge issues relating to chain of custody when it comes to blood samples – including whether the samples were properly stored — and will understand how certain medications and medical conditions can complicate and skew blood alcohol concentration (BAC) results.