DC DMV License Revocation Hearings for DUI: Admission of Breath or Urine Score

When someone is arrested for Driving Under the Influence in the District of Columbia, an officer usually gives them a pink piece of paper entitled “Official Notice of Proposed Revocation.” This Notice tells the driver that his or her D.C. license or right to drive in D.C. will be revoked automatically unless they request a hearing at the DMV Adjudication Services located at L’Enfant Plaza. If you receive the Notice, you should hire a DMV attorney immediately to schedule a hearing so that your driving privileges and/ or license are not automatically revoked.

Notice of Proposed Revocation

At the DMV hearing, the officer who issued the Notice of Proposed Revocation has to appear to present evidence in support of the allegations. The officer has to mark the boxes next to the allegations stating what offenses they believe the driver violated, which are located at the bottom portion of the pink Notice. The common allegation is: operation of a motor vehicle while apparently under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drug, or while impaired by the consumption of alcohol, or while apparently physically or mentally unqualified to operate a motor vehicle by reason of diabetic coma, epileptic, or other seizure. Failure to mark the proper allegations can result in a dismissal for defective notice based on District of Columbia Municipal Regulation § 18-307.3.

Result of the Breath, Urine, or Blood Score

The most common piece of evidence in a DUI case that supports intoxication is the result of a breath, urine, or blood test. If the test result resulted in a Blood Alcohol Content percentage of 0.08% for a breath test or 0.10% for a urine test, this is generally sufficient evidence to prove that the driver was intoxicated pursuant to D.C.M.R. § 18-1034.

Admissibility of the Chemical Test

However, despite what some may think, not all evidence is admissible in DMV hearings. The breath or urine score can only be admitted if the officer testifying is properly trained to administer and interpret the chemical test and was present during the test. If the officer was not present or does not testify that he or she was trained to administer or interpret the test, the DMV cannot accept the score as evidence that the driver was intoxicated.

The D.C. Court of Appeals held in Lister v. England, 195 A.2d 260 (D.C. 1983) that a chemical test (breath, urine, or blood) score can only be admitted as evidence of intoxication if the officer present was the officer who administered the test and is trained to interpret the result. The Court of Appeals explained that they reversed the DMV License Revocation Order that admitted a chemical test result without a qualified officer because “the result of a chemical analysis of blood, urine or breath cannot be received in evidence in a hearing before the Department of Motor Vehicles unless accompanied by expert testimony or a witness qualified to interpret the result, because without benefit of such testimony or resort to the statutory standards the result of the analysis is meaningless.” Lister v. England, 195 A.2d at 262. See also Holt v. England, 196 A.2d 87 (D.C. 1963) (result of a urinalysis was not admissible in administrative hearing without testimony of an expert qualified to interpret such result).

Know The Testifying Officer’s Role In The Arrest

This is very important at the DMV because usually there are three officers involved in a DUI arrest: (1) the officer who pulled the driver over; (2) the officer that administered the field sobriety tests (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk and Turn, and/or One Leg Stand); and (3) the officer who administered the chemical test. Often the only officer who shows up to the hearing is either the officer who initiated the stop or the officer who conducted the field sobriety tests. If that is the case, the DMV cannot accept the chemical test score as evidence that the driver was intoxicated.

While it is possible for the officer to present enough evidence without the breath or urine score, the admission of the score is often an automatic win for the government. So, keeping it out using Lister v. England and Holt v. England is certainly a step towards keeping your D.C. driving privileges.

The best way to ensure the most positive possible outcome in your DC DMV case and DMV License Revocation hearing is to hire an attorney, who can cite to the authority and check to make sure that the government and hearing examiners are following all of the correct rules and regulations.

Contact Bruckheim & Patel at (202) 930-3468 to consult with an experienced DC DMV attorney immediately!