Chemical Test Refusals Under DC’s DUI/DWI Statutes

by Jamison Koehler on September 19, 2009

Assuming you have not been in an accident, you can refuse to take a breath, blood, or urine test in the District of Columbia after being pulled over by a police officer for suspicion of driving while intoxicated or driving while under the influence. However, under D.C.’s “implied consent” law, your driver’s license will automatically be suspended for a year. (Driving in the District is a privilege, not a right. The mere act of driving a car in the District implies that, in return for this privilege, you have consented to have your breath, blood or urine tested for alcohol or drug content.)

You cannot refuse to take a chemical test if you were the driver in an accident AND the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe you were operating while under the influence. In fact, in this instance, the police officer can forcibly administer such a test.

While the police officer will choose what type of test to administer (that is, whether you are given a blood, breath, or urine test), you can object to any particular type of test based on religious or medical grounds.

If you are unconscious or otherwise incapable of refusing the test, the police officer will go ahead and administer it. You can prevent evidence taken in this manner from being introduced against you in court later, but your license will automatically be suspended for a year.

Whether or not you SHOULD refuse to take a chemical test is, among other things, very case-specific and thus beyond the scope of this blog.

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