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DC DUI _ Traffic Law FAQs


What is a Victim Impact Panel in a Washington, DC DUI Case?
If you are convicted of a DUI in Washington, DC, the court will likely require you to participate in a Victim Impact Panel as part of your probation. DUI/DWI Victim Impact Panels (VIPs) are normally held on the last Monday of each month at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church at 3400 12th Street NE Washington, DC. The panel is basically a chance for victims of alcohol-traffic accidents do share their experiences with those convicted of DUIs. Your Washington, DC DUI attorney can discuss how this may apply to your situation.
What is a Notice of Proposed Suspension in Washington, DC DUI Cases?
If you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), or operation while impaired in Washington, DC, you may be issued a “Notice of Proposed Suspension” by the arresting officer. You will always be issued a Notice of Proposed Suspension of your DC driving privileges if you refuse a breathalyzer, urine sample, or blood test. Once you receive the notice, you should go to the DC DMV scheduling office in SE and schedule a hearing as soon as possible, but no later than the deadline on the notice. Your DC DUI lawyer can represent you at the hearing.
How much are the legal defense fees for Drunk Driving?
If you contact Scrofano Law, PC you will get a free no-obligation consultation. The specific fees for your case will vary depending on the facts but you will know upfront how much it will cost, and also know that your case is important and will be given the attention it deserves.
How soon should I call an attorney after being arrested for a DUI?
Immediately! You should contact an attorney at your first available opportunity. Not only can your Washington, DC DUI lawyer help make sure you are not subjected to any improper tests or questions, but, if you want to keep your driver’s license, you may need to have a DMV hearing within five days of your arrest.
What is the difference between DUI, DWI, and OWI?
In the District of Columbia, there are three types of “Drunk Driving” offenses.

The first is Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). The government is required to prove, through the use of blood or urine tests, that a driver operated, or had control of, a motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams per deciliter of blood. The government is not required to prove that driver was actually suffering any type of impairment.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a charged that requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating alcohol or drugs and that his or her ability to drive was impaired. The government can use a variety of methods including observation, Field Sobriety Test scores, or blood or urine tests.

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) requires the government to prove that the defendant operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of any amount of alcohol but is not required to show that the defendant was impaired in any way. This charge carries the lightest penalty. It is also not recognized in many other states, so it may not result in a loss of license for some out of state drivers. For those drivers, they are not allowed to drive in the District of Columbia. For a DC license holder, all driving privileges may be suspended

What should I do if I get stopped by the police?
As you know, it is best to avoid this situation entirely by drinking responsibly, taking public transportation, a taxi, or using a designated driver. However, if you have been drinking and are pulled over there are things you should and should not do.

  • Pull over as soon as you can safely do so and come to a complete stop.
  • Lower your window completely and stay in the car.
  • Place your hands on the wheel and never take them out of site.

This will make the officer feel more comfortable when approaching the car which makes it much safer for you. Don’t forget that police officers have been killed in routine traffic stops, so they have a reason to be cautious. Always be polite to the officers, but you have a constitutional right to remain silent. It may be best to do so. Always have your driver’s license and proof of insurance easily accessible. It is not only safer but you can fail a “divided attention” sobriety test for failing to locate them in a timely manner.

Should I tell the police I've had only one or two drinks?
If you’ve ever seen the TV show COPS, you probably know the answer to this question. You are likely to still get arrested. On the upside, it may give an explanation for the odor of alcohol on your breath, but it may also give the police probable cause. You have a constitutional right to remain silent — it is probably best to use that right when stopped for a Drunk Driving in Washington, DC.
Can I be charged with a DUI if I’m taking prescription drugs?
Yes! Just because you have a valid prescription for a drug does not mean you are allowed to drive after taking it. The law prohibits driving under the influence of intoxicating drugs or alcohol. You do not need a prescription to buy a bottle of whiskey but you obviously aren’t allowed to drink it and then drive your car. It is no different with prescription narcotics or other drugs.
Do I need to hire a lawyer to represent me in Washington, DC?
You are constitutionally allowed to represent yourself in a criminal case. This does not make it a good idea. Drunk driving defense in Washington, DC is a very complex area of law that requires skill at trial techniques as well as knowledge of administration of field sobriety tests, breathalyzer operation, blood testing, police procedure, and recent developments in the law. It is recommended that you hire a lawyer who specializes in this area rather than just a lawyer who will handle a DUI occasionally.
Will I go to jail for Drunk Driving?
If you are arrested in the District of Columbia on suspicion of drunk driving, you will most likely be taken to an MPD District station where you will be booked and placed in a holding cell until you are sober. You will probably be released from there and given a summons to appear in traffic court. Unless there is was an accident or something else involved, you will probably not be taken to the Central Cell Block on Indiana Avenue. If you are convicted of a DWI or DUI and blew less than 0.20% on a breath score, and this was your first offense, you most likely not go to jail. You may get a suspended sentence with probation. Your DUI defense attorney should explain this to you.
What is a Deferred Sentencing Agreement?
In Washington, DC, if you have been charged with a DUI, DWI, or OUI, and it is your first offense, you have no criminal record, there was no accident, you did not do anything really offensive such as yelling and cursing at the police, and had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of less than 0.1%, you may be entitled to a Deferred Sentencing Agreement (DSA). With a DSA you will plead guilty to the DUI and go to probation for a certain period of time. If you successfully complete the probation, the charges will be dismissed, and you will have the conviction removed from your record.
Is a DUI or DWI a felony in Washington, DC?
In Washington, DC a first offense DWI or DUI is a misdemeanor handled in the traffic court division of the Superior Court. However, it may still have serious consequences such as loss of driver’s license, high-risk or SR-22 insurance, court costs, and DMV fines, among others.

Traffic Violations

How much will a lawyer charge me in Washington, DC?
If you contact the Scrofano Law PC, you will get a free no-obligation consultation. The specific fees for your case will vary depending on the facts, but you will know up front how much it will cost, and also know that your case is important and will be given the attention it deserves.
Do I need an attorney to fight my traffic violation?
Some people prefer to simply pay the ticket and deal with the points on their license, increase in insurance premiums, and possible other negative consequences. Other drivers who have received a speeding ticket in DC, may try to represent themselves in traffic court or at a DMV hearing. This is certainly allowed and done with the hope the officer won’t show up in court, and they will win by default. However, if you want to increase the odds of winning your fight, or you care about the consequences of not fighting, you should consider hiring a Washington, DC traffic violations defense lawyer.
Can you “talk” your way out of ticket?
In the District of Columbia, most officers are trained to decide whether they are going to issue a ticket before the approach the vehicle that has been stopped for speeding or another moving violation. If the officer asks if you know why he or she pulled you over, it may be best to politely decline to answer. This also applies to the question about how fast you were going.
Can I fight a DC speeding ticket if the officer used radar?
In Traffic Division of the DC Superior Court, judges are sometimes skeptical about radar gun results. It is not that the device itself is inaccurate, but rather the method in which the radar was used to issue a speeding ticket. The officer is supposed to use their own judgment to estimate the speed of a vehicle and then use the radar to confirm this. It is an active process that requires the officer’s attention. If the officer was sitting in the cruiser with a car mounted radar device and waiting for the alarm to go off, this can be challenged in court.
Can I get out of a DC speeding ticket if the cop used a laser gun?
Police in Washington, DC commonly use a 3rd Generation LIDAR gun such as the Prolaser III. While this device may be accurate, it requires both laboratory and field calibration. The police officer attempting to use a LIDAR device must calibrate the range and alignment of the sighting mechanism. There have been many cases when they have not done so, and your speeding ticket defense lawyer should cross-examine the officer on the witness stand.
Where are traffic cameras located in Washington, DC?
The Washington, DC Metro Police maintain a list of the location of all photo enforcement cameras. The list is publicly available on the MPD website.
Does a traffic camera ticket add points to my license?
Currently, the MPD does not make any attempt to identify the driver of a vehicle issued photo enforcement ticket. The police will simply mail the ticket to the registered owner of the vehicle who can pay the ticket, or send an affidavit that they were not driving at the time. The driver must identify who was driving and the ticket and affidavit will be mailed to that person. They do not currently issue points to the owner of the vehicle, because they cannot prove who is driving. Other states also take a photo of the driver and do issue points.
How does a speeding camera work?
MPD operates cameras designed to catch speeding motorists in the District of Columbia. The camera has a radar gun that detects when a car is speeding and takes two photographs of the rear of the car. The camera has a bracket in the image frame that is supposed to display where the radar gun is aimed. If the car is in the bracket and the license plate is visible, the police will mail a DC photo enforcement ticket to the registered owner of the vehicle.
How does a red light camera work?
The DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) operates traffic cameras throughout the District. One type of traffic camera is designed to detect if a car crosses the stop line after the light has turned red. When the car enters the intersection, the camera takes a photograph of the car. A second photo is taken when the vehicle is in the middle of the intersection. As long as the license plate is visible in the photograph, the police will mail a speeding ticket to the registered owner.
What is reckless driving?
In Washington, DC, a driver can be charged with a criminal misdemeanor for reckless driving for operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner. This can include failing to yield to emergency service vehicles, aggressive driving, excessive speeding, and other potentially dangerous actions. A conviction for reckless driving could result in up to a year in jail and/or a $1000 fine.
Is driving with a suspended or revoked license a criminal offense?
In the District of Columbia, driving with a suspended or revoked license is a serious traffic violation. One of the major reasons is that unlicensed drivers are also generally uninsured drivers which can create a major problem for others on the road. If you have been charged with driving on a suspended or revoked license, you should contact a DC traffic violations lawyer as soon as possible.
What is a criminal speeding violation?
In Washington, DC, a driver can be charged with criminal speeding for going 30 miles an hour over the posted the speed limit. This is different from a standard moving violation, which is considered a civil infraction. Your DC traffic violations lawyer should explain the process to you.