Same Standard, Different Penalties for Drinking-and-Driving in DC

Jamison Koehler DUI and Driving Offenses, Opinions/Cases

D.C. Superior Court judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys have traditionally treated the criminal offense of Operating While Impaired (OWI) as if it were a lesser-included offense of Driving Under The Influence (DUI).  Although a specific standard for OWI cannot be found in either the statute or case law, judges have repeatedly stated that in order to secure a conviction for …

Emergency Legislation Results in Tougher Drinking-and-Driving Laws in D.C.

Jamison Koehler DUI and Driving Offenses

A new D.C. law, which took effect on August 1, 2012, has increased penalties for people convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving under the influence (DUI) and operating while impaired (OWI).  For example, the penalty for a first-time conviction in a DUI/DWI case has gone up from a maximum fine of $300 and 90 days in jail to a …

D.C. skyline

Ignition Interlock To Be Required For All DUI-Restricted Licenses in Virginia

Jamison Koehler Current Events, DUI and Driving Offenses

Beginning July 1, 2012, every person who is convicted of a drinking-and-driving offense in Virginia and who wants to drive on a restricted license will be required to install an ignition interlock device on his/her car.  Current law applies this requirement only to repeat offenders and to first-time offenders who are convicted of a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or …

Complaints, Excuses, and Justifications after a Lost DWI Trial

Jamison Koehler Discovery, DUI and Driving Offenses, Trial Advocacy

  Before beginning my practice in Virginia, I went over to traffic court in Fairfax County to observe, and was struck by the large number of DWI cases that pled. One piece of blue paper after another was passed up to the judge, with the defendants lining up to accept responsibility for their offense. These guys don’t know how to …

U.S. Capitol building

Confrontation Clause Be Damned: D.C. Continues to Use Surrogate Witnesses in DUI Cases

Jamison Koehler Criminal Procedure, DUI and Driving Offenses, Legal Concepts/Principles

  Michael Bruckheim was scheduled to cross-examine Lucas Zarwell, the chief forensic toxicologist in D.C., and a group of DUI lawyers had gathered outside Room 116 yesterday afternoon shortly before 2:00 pm. Zarwell testified before city council last May that urine samples taken by police to test suspected drunk drivers are not reliable enough to accurately measure a person’s blood …

U.S. Capitol Building

Confronting the Silent Witness — the Breath Test Machine — in a DWI Case

Jamison Koehler DUI and Driving Offenses

  The government vouches for him.  He himself doesn’t need to come to court, much less explain the basis for his conclusions.  His “testimony,” which is delivered through an interpreter, consists of nothing more than a couple of numbers and some pre-set generic language. There is no opportunity to cross-examine him. And yet the court can send the defendant away …

U.S. Capitol building

On Making Life Easier for Police Officers

Jamison Koehler Criminal Procedure

Of all the tricks used by police officers, one of the most devious – yet harmless – tricks I have heard is the ploy they use to take a DWI suspect into custody after deciding to make the arrest. The purpose of this particular trick is not to improve detection techniques or to get a reluctant suspect to confess. It …

Aerial view of DC

The “Oopsie” Phenomenon and Other Problems with Urine Tests

Jamison Koehler DUI and Driving Offenses

With the use of breath test machines temporarily suspended in D.C. because of calibration and accuracy problems, people arrested under suspicion of drinking and driving are currently being administered urine tests. Generally considered even less reliable than the breath test as a surrogate measure for blood alcohol concentration, urine tests present at least four different problems for the government. First, …