Penalties for a first-time DUI offense in D.C. are also heavier than ever before, so the stakes are higher.
Unfortunately, many defendants end up making the situation worse in a number of ways. Most commonly, those include resisting arrest, fleeing and eluding and sometimes, assaulting an officer.
In D.C., assault on an officer can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the injury the officer suffered.
Most of the time, when people think “assault,” they think of some violent act of aggression. However, the definition of assault on an officer under D.C. Criminal Code 22-405 is quite broad – which is why we so often see it in the course of handling DUI cases.
The law allows that anyone can be charged under this statute if he or she, without excusable or justifiable cause, “assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates or interferes” with a law enforcement officer who is engaged in the performance of his or her duties.
In order to prove this charge, prosecutors have to show that the action was not a mistake or accident and that the defendant knew or had reason to know that the complainant was an officer.
As a misdemeanor, this charge carries up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. This can be upped to a felony with a maximum 10-year prison term if the action causes significant bodily harm to the officer.
Often, a DUI defendant charged with assault on an officer is reacting to the situation with panic or responding to an officer’s rudeness or even mistreatment. In some cases, overzealous officers file this charge without cause. There are a fair number of these situations in which a person accused of assaulting an officer weren’t actually violent or physically aggressive toward the officer.
In fact, there was an example recently in which a D.C. patrol officer who used excessive force – and then lied about it in his official reports. He was recently sentenced to two years probation for assault and excessive force on a store employee. Originally, the officer arrested the worker for assault on a police officer. Were it not for the existence of a store surveillance camera that showed the officer to be the true aggressor, that charge might have stuck.
In a traffic stop situation, you can’t always count on that kind of evidence. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced lawyer who can help you uncover all your potential defense options.
No matter what the circumstances, a conviction on a charge like this could have lifelong consequences – even if it is only filed as a misdemeanor. It will remain permanently on your record, visible to prospective schools and employers and anyone else who inquires about your background.
We strongly advise during any traffic stop to remain calm, cooperative and quiet. Practicing these won’t necessarily help you avoid arrest, but it will improve the odds that your defense attorney will be able to successfully have the charges reduced or dismissed.
If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716.