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D.C. DUI Penalties Continue to get More Severe

by | Jul 20, 2011

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has come out with new state rankings, which puts the District of Columbia 32 of 51 when it comes to drunk driving prevention. The agency reports fatal drunk driving accidents are up 11 percent year-over-year, even as the number of accidents nationwide continues to decline.

No one would argue MADD has not done a tremendous amount of good over the years. The issue is that drunk driving continues to be singled out for enforcement — for glad-handing politicians looking for headlines — and for new laws that make prosecutors and judges look tough on crime.

The end result is sobriety checkpoints and enforcement blitzes that increase the number of marginal arrests or that outright violate a motorist’s civil rights. DC drunk driving defense attorneys continue to see far too many defendants who fail to takehe charges seriously enough, or who simply plead guilty in exchange for an offer of probation from prosecutors. The risks with that strategy are many.

First of all, we just don’t know what the law is going to look like after another 10 years of politicians happily shaking hands over batch after batch of tough new regulations. Alabama just became the last state in the nation to require ignition interlock devices for some offenders. An increasing number of states are requiring them for first offenders. MADD wants them installed in the vehicles of everyone who has ever been convicted. Aside from the embarrassment of having the device installed in your vehicle, there is the cost — which can tack several thousand dollars onto the cost of a drunk driving conviction. The State of Florida recently reported the cost of a DUI conviction can approach $20,000 counting fines, court costs, jail time, probation fees, alcohol classes and skyrocketing insurance premiums. Generally, hiring an experienced DUI defense lawyer is money well spent.

And we don’t even know what the threshold for DUI will be next year or the year after. The nationwide limit has already dropped from .10 to .08. However, there is movement afoot to lower it even further — and many nations already have a lower limit. In China, it’s .02; Japan’s limit is .03; and the limit in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Israel, Ireland and Hong Kong is .05.

People too often gasp when they hear a defendant has gotten three DUIs, or 6 drunk driving convictions — or 10. They shouldn’t. Having a conviction on your record is a real good way to get stopped by law enforcement, questioned, and charged again. Another real good reason to avoid getting that first conviction.

Then there is the issue of probation — which is no picnic. If you think you have it tough now, wait until a bureaucrat is running your life. It is not at all unusual for a defendant experienced with the justice system to choose jail time rather than to attempt to complete the requirements of a lengthy period of probation. It’s worth noting that all of Lindsay Lohan’s legal problems stem from a series of probation violations after a pair of DUI charges that were filed years ago.

The first drunk driving conviction is often the easiest to beat — or to at least get reduced. Unfortunately, it is also the one motorists too often fail to take seriously. If you have been charged with drunk driving in D.C., seek experienced legal help.

D.C. DWI Defense Lawyer Christopher Mutimer can be reached at 202-765-3175.