Washington, DC (PRWEB) August 01, 2012
The Comprehensive Impaired Driving Act of 2012 was passed by the D.C. Council then signed into law earlier this month by Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
The Act will drastically affect the way that DUI charges are prosecuted. The new law went into effect on August 1st, 2012, and increases the penalties for first time DUI offenses and lengthens mandatory minimum sentences for those with prior traffic alcohol convictions.
The law overhauls the way that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) conducts breathalyzer tests. Reports emerged last year that the District was using breath machines that had not been serviced properly, and as a result gave faulty readings.
Washington D.C. DUI lawyer David Benowitz comments on the new law:
"For years the OAG sponsored inaccurate breathalyzer scores produced by the Metropolitan Police Department. In response to this scandal, the OAG began sponsoring urine testing, which its own expert, Dr. Lucas Zarwell of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, has testified has no correlation with the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood, the barometer for determining whether someone is truly impaired behind the wheel."
Mr. Benowitz continues:
"Instead of ensuring that the testing methodology it uses as evidence in court is accurate, the OAG spent its time pushing through tougher penalties for first-time offenses and increasing mandatory-minimum sentences. This is nothing but an attempt to bully people charged with these offenses into pleading guilty to avoid mandatory jail time. The problem for the OAG is that increasing penalties doesn’t make breath testing machines or urinalysis tests more accurate. Misdirection is not a substitute for a real truth-seeking process. The people of the District of Columbia expect better; they haven’t received it from the OAG for years."
This new law gives complete oversight of the breathalyzer program to the Department of Forensic Sciences, an organization created by the District. The District has also purchased new breathalyzer machines that theoretically help MPD conduct these tests accurately.
There are important increases in potential punishment associated with the law. The new maximum prison sentence for a first time DUI offender is now 180 days (up from 90), while the maximum fine is set at $1,000 (previously $300).
The mandatory minimum sentence for a first time offense with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .20 also gets a bump, going from five days to ten. If the BAC is over .25, a 15-day mandatory minimum sentence is now imposed, and a 20-day sentence if the BAC is over .30. A 15-day mandatory jail term is imposed for anyone whose blood or urine contains any amount of Phencyclidine, cocaine, methadone, or morphine.
David Benowitz is a founding partner of Price Benowitz LLP, a Washington, D.C. based law firm, where he represents those charged with a variety of criminal, traffic alcohol, federal criminal, and white collar offenses. For more information, you can reach us at (202) 600-9595.