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D.C. Drunk Driving Defense: Penalty Varies by Judge, Jurisdiction

by | Jul 29, 2011

The 20-day jail sentence for former NBA star and ESPN analyst Jalen Rose has been making news all week after a suburban Detroit judge sentenced him to 20 days in jail.

D.C. DUI Defense Attorneys see defendants everyday who underestimate the seriousness of drunk driving charges. In this case an accident was involved, which can increase the potential penalties. But the fact remains that DUI penalties have increased beyond reason in many cases — to the point where a misdemeanor conviction can carry the penalties of a low-level felony. Socially, the penalties have also grown more severe and often result in job loss and damage to a defendant’s reputation among his peers.

Being charged with drunk driving in D.C. is a serious criminal offense that should always be handled by an experienced defense attorney. Jail time, license suspension, thousands of dollars in fines, court costs and supervision fees are commonplace. Probation — and stipulations that can result in violation — may leave you dealing with the legal system for years to come. And any subsequent offenses can carry the real threat of lengthy jail sentences and license suspensions that can last for years.

The USA Today recently reported on the difference in state laws. Drunk driving has become a favorite of politicians when it comes to passing laws to show they are “tough on crime.” Like sex offenders, nobody lobbies for common sense when it comes to drunk driving. And, while the federal government brought states into line with a nationwide .08 limit by threatening to withhold highway funding, it’s still the Wild West when it comes to punishment. Thus, 20 days in West Bloomfield may have turned into a slap on the wrist down the street in Pontiac.

The likely penalties can even differ from judge to judge. Knowing what to expect and how to best use it to a client’s advantage is another asset an experienced drunk driving defense attorney in D.C. can bring to the table.

Alaska, Tennessee and Georgia have mandatory jail time for first offenders. California, Connecticut and Indiana have no jail time for first-timers. In Wisconsin, a first offense is not even a crime — it’s instead treated just like a traffic ticket.

Still, one of the main factors is the court a driver ends up in and the judge sitting on the bench. Federal sentencing guidelines state that jail has not been found to be a deterrent but it hasn’t stopped elected judges from showing they are “tough on crime.””The available evidence suggests that as a specific deterrent, jail terms are extremely costly and no more effective in reducing (drunken-driving) recidivism,” the manual notes.

The use of ignition interlock devices has become more common — Alabama just became the last state in the nation to mandate their use for some drivers. The systems require a driver to blow into them before starting a car (a sure winner on date night) and will cost the convicted defendant several thousand dollars over the life of the judge’s order.

There is little likelihood that the legal consequences will trend in reverse anytime soon. Tomorrow’s penalties are likely to be even more severe. And, with talk of lowering the nationwide limit below .08, the number of questionable and unfair arrests will continue to increase with each passing year. Defending yourself is critical to your freedom, your reputation, your right to drive and your livelihood.

If you are facing  DUI charges in Washington, contact the Law Office Of Scrofano Law, PC for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call 202-765-3175 or fill out our online contact form. Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards accepted.