DC Criminal Defense Lawyer

Drunk Driving – First Offense

If you’re facing a drunk driving charge in Washington DC and confused by the laws, you aren’t alone. The District of Columbia laws on the issue of drunk driving are quite complex and you definitely aren’t the first one to be completely overwhelmed by them. Being stopped by the police, forced to submit to difficult tests, and then arrested, you’ve been through a lot.

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But we can help.

If you’re facing charges of DUI (Driving Under the Influence), DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), or OWI (Operating While Impaired), you need the help of a defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney acts as your advocate in court–your partner in your criminal case.

Despite the frequency of DUI/DWI/OWI arrests in DC, these charges are considered very serious. The potential for innocent people to get hurt due to drunk driving is so great that the courts seem to penalize you as if you had already hurt someone.

Whatever happened that lead to this incident, the district is accusing you of being too intoxicated to be behind the wheel and now you’re facing a potential criminal record.

Washington DC DUI/DWI Laws

The laws are slightly different, but the penalties for the offenses of DUI and DWI are the same.

DUI refers to someone driving while “under the influence” of alcohol, while DWI is more specifically operating a vehicle when your blood alcohol content is determined to be 0.08% or more, or if you are driving under the influence and are underage.

If you have no prior DUI/DWI convictions on your record you will face up to 180 days in jail and $1000 in fines for this offense. (As of 8/1/12, up from 90 days/$300).

High BAC Levels

As of 8/1/12, the penalties for driving with a a high level of alcohol have increased.

BAC Level Mandatory Jail Sentence
.20% or higher 10 days
.25% or higher 20 days
.30% or higher 30 days

These high BAC, or “extreme DWI” charges indicate you were severely impaired, and posed a serious danger to the public, and are more likely to have a severe and chronic alcohol problem.

Commercial Driver’s BAC Level

The new law as of 8/1/12 reduced the legal level of impairment to .04% if you are driving a commercial vehicle, such as a cab, bus, or truck.

Washington DC OWI Laws & Penalties

If it’s determined that you are “impaired” but the DUI/DWI charges aren’t appropriate, you could be facing an OWI charge. This offense carries up to 30 days in jail for a first time offense and fines reaching $300.

The penalties are the lightest of any DC drunk driving charge, and it is also the easiest case to prove.

Any degree of impairment while driving could lead to an OWI charge. That could mean the police officer thought you were impaired, even though your BAC was less than the .08% legal limit. It could also mean the officer thought you were impaired by drugs.

An OWI might be charged if they don’t think they can prove a DUI or DWI charge, or the charge might be reduced to an OWI in a plea agreement.

Deferred Sentencing

For any of the charges above, if this is your first such charge you may be eligible for what’s called a deferred sentencing agreement. This isn’t true in all cases and if you had a BAC of more than .10, you may not qualify.

However, if you qualify, a deferred sentencing agreement essentially means you agree to take some classes and pay fines and the charges are dismissed against you.

To know for certain if you are eligible for such a program, contact our offices today.

Driver’s License Suspension after a DC Drunk Driving Charge

Your driver’s license will be revoked 5 days after your arrest unless you apply for a hearing. This is one reason it’s essential you contact a defense attorney immediately after being arrested. Requesting a hearing doesn’t always mean you won’t lose your license, but there’s a chance it could help.

For your first DUI/DWI charge, you could lose your license for an entire year, likely a scary thought considering how much time the average DC resident or worker spends on their commute.

When you are facing drunk driving charges, you need someone on your side in court. Contact my offices today for a consultation on your case.


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