A drunk driving charge is a serious offense that can greatly affect your life in a negative way. In order to prevent any potential abuse in your case, it is vital that you are aware of your rights and to make sure that they were respected during and after your arrest. This article will explain potential fines and penalties for DUI and DWI in Washington, D.C., as well as what you will need to contend the charges against you in court.
Differences Between Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in D.C.
Every state in the U.S. relies on blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to establish whether or not a driver is impaired by alcohol. In the District of Columbia, the charge of driving under the influence (DUI) is the lesser of the two drunk driving offenses. In order to arrest drivers for DUI, the police must have evidence that the driver’s BAC is .07 percent or lower, as well as evidence that the person’s driving was impaired (such as results of a field sobriety test or traffic infractions committed before the vehicle was stopped).
Driving while intoxicated (DWI), on the other hand, is the charge issued when a driver’s BAC reaches .08 percent or higher. In these cases, the police do not need further evidence to arrest a suspect, and the driver can be convicted in court based only on the breath, blood, or urine test results.
Penalties for a DUI or DWI in the District include:
- First offense: First-time offenders face up to 90 days in jail, fines between $300 and $1000, and enrollment in an alcohol intervention program. Offenders with BAC levels above .20 percent must be incarcerated for a minimum of 10 days, those with BAC above .25 percent face a mandatory 15 days in jail, and drivers with a BAC over .30 percent must serve a minimum of 20 days.
- Second offense: A second DUI conviction within 15 years of the first offense will result in fines between $2500 and $5000 and mandatory incarceration starting at 10 days, depending on BAC measurement. Community service may also be ordered.
- Third offense: Judges may consider any DUIs in the past 15 years when determining appropriate punishments for subsequent offenses. Third offenses may carry penalties of a two-year license suspension, a $2,000 to $10,000 fine, and a year in jail.
Penalties for Cab Drivers and Commercial Vehicle Operators
Drivers who operate vehicles as part of their employment may be arrested for drunk driving if they have a BAC of .04 percent or above. Intoxicated drivers of taxicabs, delivery trucks, city buses, or school buses can be sentenced to 180 days in jail, pay up to $1,000 fines, face a six-month license revocation, and serve a mandatory minimum of five days in jail.
Zero-Tolerance Laws for Underage Drinking in D.C.
Washington, D.C. has some of the strictest laws in the U.S. to discourage underage drinking. Persons under the age of 21 can be charged with DWI if they are pulled over with a BAC of anything over .00 percent in their breath, blood, or urine. Minors may face additional penalties if they:
- Attempt to purchase alcohol with a false ID. Minors who alter driver's licenses or lie about their age in order to obtain alcohol can face criminal charges, fines up to $1,000, and suspension of the driver’s license for up to one year.
- Are seen consuming alcohol. Consumption or possession of alcoholic beverages of any kind can lead to civil penalties up to $1,000 and suspension of driver’s license for up to one year.
- Enlisted an adult’s help to obtain alcohol. Adults or parents who help minors obtain alcohol can also be fined up to $300 as well as face license revocation for up to three months.
Enhanced DUI and DWI Charges
Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may face additional penalties, including mandatory jail time in a DUI or DWI case for:
- Driving with a severely high BAC. A BAC of 0.20 percent or more will result in 10 days mandatory minimum jail time for a first offense and 25 days for a second offense, with higher minimums depending on the amount of alcohol in your system.
- Driving with a minor in the vehicle. In addition to all usual penalties, intoxicated drivers can be ordered to serve a minimum of a five days in jail and a $500 fine for each minor in the vehicle who was properly restrained. Drivers transporting minors who were not properly restrained by a seat belt or in an appropriate car seat must serve 10 days minimum in jail and pay $1,000 for each improperly restrained minor.
- Driving under the influence of prohibited drugs. Drivers who test positive for the presence of a Schedule I chemical or controlled substance in the bloodstream (such as Cocaine, Methadone, Morphine, or PCP) must serve a minimum of 15 days in jail for a first offense, a mandatory sentence that increases with each conviction.
Refusal to Take a BAC Test
The District also mandates a law of implied consent for all drivers. This means that, simply by driving a vehicle, you consent to drug and alcohol testing by a police officer. If you refuse to take this test, your license will automatically be suspended for 12 months by the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you are driving with a learner’s permit or do not have a license, then you will not be able to apply for a license for 12 months.
What Should I Know After a Drunk Driving Arrest in Washington, D.C.?
Intoxicated drivers in the District of Columbia can face both civil and criminal penalties. Civil penalties are carried out by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and you must answer to the criminal charges in court.
One of the first things that will happen after you are arrested is that the arresting officer will give you an Order of Proposed Revocation, immediately suspending your license. Your license will be suspended for anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the level of your offense. This suspension is performed by the DMV and is completely separate from any further suspension or revocation ordered by the court.
In order to get your license reinstated, you must pay a fee and offer proof of insurability (an SR-22 certificate) at the end of the suspension period. If your license is revoked, it can’t be reinstated—you must apply for a brand new license. If you attempt to drive with a revoked or suspended license in D.C., you will face additional penalties.
There are many ways the evidence against you may be refuted in court. The best way to proceed is to find a DUI attorney who is familiar with the court system and potential outcomes for these charges in the District. If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving, contact the Washington, D.C. DUI and DWI lawyers at Tucker, Nong and Associates today for an evaluation of your case.