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Karamychev v. Dist. of Columbia

May 10, 2001


Before Steadman, Schwelb, and Reid, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb, Associate Judge

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Tim Murphy, Trial Judge)

Argued April 12, 2001

Following a bench trial, Filip Karamychev was convicted of driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor (DUI), in violation of D.C. Code § 40-716 (b) (1998). On appeal, he contends that the results of three roadside sobriety tests administered to him on the scene should have been suppressed on Miranda *fn1 grounds. Karamychev also claims that the arresting officer should not have been permitted to testify as an expert regarding the administration of one of these tests. Finally, Karamychev asserts that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. We affirm.


Officer Ephriam Williams, then a twelve-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, testified that on October 31, 1997, at about 3:15 a.m., he was on patrol in the area of Connecticut Avenue and M Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C. Suddenly, Officer Williams heard the screeching of tires. Turning his attention to the source of the noise, Williams saw a two-door Mitsubishi automobile make a right turn onto M Street, which is one-way westbound at that location. The Mitsubishi then proceeded east on M Street, against the flow of traffic, at what Officer Williams described as a "high rate of speed." Williams was able to stop the vehicle after it had travelled about two blocks in the wrong direction.

The driver of the Mitsubishi turned out to be appellant Filip Karamychev, then eighteen years of age. Karamychev, a native of Russia, testified that he had been in the United States approximately four or five years, "off and on." *fn2 When Officer Williams approached the Mitsubishi, he detected "a strong odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle." Officer Williams ordered Karamychev to step out of the car. According to Williams, Karamychev's eyes "seemed reddish," his speech "was kind of loud," and he "seemed to have a problem maintaining his balance."

Suspecting that Karamychev may have been drinking, Officer Williams proceeded to administer three roadside sobriety tests, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the "walk and turn" test, and the "one-leg stand" test. *fn3 These tests are designed to determine whether the motorist's physical coordination has been affected by consumption of intoxicating liquor. According to Officer Williams, Karamychev's performance on each of these tests indicated that he was under the influence of alcohol.

Officer Williams placed Karamychev under arrest and transported him to the Second District station house. Williams testified that, at the police station, Karamychev's breath still smelled of alcohol. Williams read Karamychev the "Implied Consent Form," PD 29, which contains an explanation of the consequences of a suspect's refusal to take certain chemical tests for the presence of alcohol, including the "breathalyzer." According to Williams, Karamychev declined to consent to the tests. Karamychev was then formally charged with DUI.

At his trial, Karamychev took the witness stand in his own defense. He stated that on the evening of October 30, 1997, he and some friends were having a party at a bar near Dupont Circle. Karamychev acknowledged that between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., he had consumed five or six bottles of beer. He claimed, however, that he had no more to drink thereafter, except that before the group left the bar at about 2:15 a.m., "I took just one sip to make my throat wet."

Karamychev stated that as he was driving his friends home, and apparently travelling west on M Street, one of the passengers told Karamychev that the group's destination, Catholic University, was in the other direction. Karamychev testified that he turned the vehicle around and that, shortly thereafter, he was stopped by the police. Karamychev asserted that, at Officer Williams' direction, he performed roadside sobriety tests; he believed that he had performed well on all of them. Officer Williams apparently thought otherwise, however, and Karamychev was arrested for DUI and taken to the police station. Karamychev denied that he refused to take the breathalyzer test. According to Karamychev, Officer Williams read the informed consent form to him far too rapidly. The officer refused Karamychev's request that he proceed more slowly, and Karamychev did not understand what his rights were. Karamychev admitted that he did not affirmatively agree to have the breathalyzer test administered to him.

The trial judge found Karamychev guilty as charged. The judge credited Officer Williams' testimony, and he expressly disbelieved Karamychev's evidence on two contested points. *fn4 This appeal followed.


Karamychev filed a pretrial motion to suppress, on Miranda grounds, his statements to the police, as well as what he characterized as his "non-verbal communications," i.e., his performance of the roadside sobriety tests. The trial judge suppressed Karamychev's oral statements, but he denied the motion with respect to the results of the roadside tests. On appeal, Karamychev claims that his "non-verbal communications" should have been suppressed because, at ...

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