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DUI Myths in Washington, DC

Due to the prevalence of DUI charges in DC there are a variety of common myths that may be true. With this in mind, a DC DUI lawyer can help you understand these myths regarding DUI arrests and whether they are true. To discuss your case or learn more, call and schedule a consultation today.

Blood Alcohol Content as a Reliable Indicator of Impairment

Under the law in DC and almost every jurisdiction in the US, you are deemed to be impaired if your blood alcohol content is 0.08 or greater. This is not necessarily indicative of someone who is truly impaired. There are many factors that can affect whether a person is impaired regardless of whether their alcohol level registers at a 0.12 or a 0.06.

Some of these issues include the person’s age, weight, height, metabolism, tolerance, and what they had to eat. With that being said, a blood alcohol content reading is not necessarily a reliable or consistent indicator of driver impairment.

Justification of DUI and Level of Impairment

It is a misconception that driving under the influence in this country is the same as drunk driving. This is a misnomer because the blood alcohol content required in the body for a DUI conviction is low enough that many people will not actually be “drunk” but could be deemed legally impaired. In the District of Columbia, the standard is impaired to a noticeable degree or an appreciable degree.

This does not mean drunk. This could mean that your response time is slowed and your balance is off-base from alcohol, but that if someone were inebriated or intoxicated from “drugs”, they could still be considered guilty of driving under the influence. Thus, if you have any alcohol in your system an officer will want to arrest you and prosecute you for a DUI.

DUI Arrest on Private Property in DC

DC has a very broad all-encompassing DUI statute. It is unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle in the District while impaired. The statute does not say, like some jurisdictions, that you cannot operate a vehicle while impaired on a public highway, public street or road.

The law in DC says in the District, meaning within the jurisdictional boundary of the District of Columbia, so under the law, you could be prosecuted if you are in actual physical control of a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs in the District of Columbia. This is extremely broad.

Officers Determining Level of Intoxication

This depends on many factors. Officers tend to err on the side of assuming that the person is impaired and make an arrest. If a person smells like alcohol, an officer will almost certainly make an arrest.

Twenty years ago, it was common for an officer to pull someone over, ask them if they had anything to drink, and the person would say, “Well, I had one, maybe two a couple of hours ago,” and the officer would tell them to be careful and go on their way. This is no longer the case anymore.

If a person smells of alcohol, exhibits any signs of alcohol consumption, or admits to having consumed alcohol, they will be asked to step out of their car and asked to take a field sobriety test. This test can be extremely difficult to pass even when sober. A person who fails one of these tests can expect a DUI arrest. Police officer’s experience with DUI investigations lends them to be able to tell that you are impaired or they will assume you are impaired.

Thus, it is not hard for an officer to tell whether a person is slightly buzzed.

Additional Common DUI Myths in DC

The most common myth would be that you cannot be arrested and prosecuted for DUI if you in fact were not driving a vehicle which seems logical. However, the statute does not say that you must be driving. It says that you have to be operating a vehicle and “operating” has been defined as in having actual physical control.

For example, if you decide you want to leave a bar to sit in your car, and turn it on, but do not turn on the ignition. You just listen to the radio for a couple of hours because you want to sober up.

If you are sitting in your car in DC with the keys in the ignition just listening to the radio, have not moved your car, have not started the engine and have no intent to do so, you could still be prosecuted and convicted for DUI if you are impaired by alcohol because you are in actual physical control of your vehicle.