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Is a DUI Considered a Criminal Offense in DC? Here’s What You Need to Know

Is a DUI considered a crime in Washington, DC? Find out here from attorney Joseph A. Scrofano of Scrofano Law, PC.

Is a DUI Considered a Criminal Offense in DC?

When a person is accused of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, it means that they were caught operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Therefore, alcohol or drugs may have impaired their judgment and driving capacity, thus endangering their lives and those of other road users.

Being convicted of DUI has serious repercussions that can affect your life in many ways. That is why you will need the services of the best DUI attorney in Washington, DC, to help you fight the charges against you.

Losing is not an option in DUI cases because the penalties are very severe and may negatively impact your life and employment opportunities for a long time. Many things can affect a DUI case; that is why you should get a defense attorney who can guarantee the best possible outcome to minimize or outright avoid the penalties or a conviction.

Is a DUI a Criminal Offense or Traffic Offense?

Crimes are categorized differently, and the punishments also vary in most states. In DC, driving under the influence is fundamentally a traffic offense, but there are some criminal elements involved.

For a felony DUI conviction, the offender will typically face a year or more in prison or jail. Plus, the fines for felony DUI convictions can be high. However, in most states, like California and Utah, first and second DUI convictions are misdemeanors. Misdemeanor DUI convictions are considered less severe.

When a police officer observes your driving and suspects you are driving under the influence, they need to confirm their suspicions; thus, they pull you over. You will undergo various field sobriety tests, such as walking and turning or standing on one leg. Additionally, the officer may perform a preliminary alcohol screening or breathalyzer. All these prearrest tests should be voluntary.

On the other hand, DUI has also been considered a criminal offense and is usually classified as a misdemeanor charge, depending on various factors. However, while DUI itself is not considered a felony in DC, you can receive a felony DUI charge if aggravating factors are involved. For example, if you injured people while DUI or led to the destruction of property, then it is a felony case.

If you have been convicted of a DUI offense, you will face driver’s license suspension, and this offense will be visible on your DUI criminal record. Which, in the future, can lead to harsher penalties. A knowledgeable attorney will guide you about the options besides a guilty plea, such as the Deferred Sentencing Agreement (DSA), which is a type of diversion in a DC DUI case. To protect your rights from felony convictions and charges and DC DUI penalties, it is better to work with a DC DUI lawyer experienced in DC DUI laws. Working with an attorney can help you get through the charges of criminal convictions and DUI and DWI charges.

What Is a Criminal Offense?

Criminal offenses refer to anything that a person does in violation of local, state, or federal laws. However, criminal offenses are categorized broadly into different groups, such as personal crimes, property crimes, and traffic crimes.

Personal crimes refer to all acts that cause bodily harm to other people, such as homicide, robbery, and larceny. On the other hand, property crimes refer to all actions that lead to damage to another person’s property. Therefore any action that hinders another person from enjoying their property falls under property crimes.

Traffic crimes refer to all law-breaking acts that happen when people control or operate motor vehicles, such as driving on a suspended license. However, there are some overlaps between traffic offenses and criminal offenses, and since DUI puts other drivers and pedestrians at risk, it can be classified as a crime in most circumstances.

Do You Get Arrested for DUI?

In some states, the legal blood alcohol legal limit is 0.08% or 0.05%; however, Washington DC has a zero-tolerance policy; thus, you can be arrested for DUI for anything above 0.00. With that in mind, although submitting for a breathalyzer test is not mandatory, the police officers may perform field sobriety tests that the police can use as probable cause to arrest you for DUI. Additionally, these results can be used as circumstantial evidence in a court appearance.

Moreover, if you are arrested for DUI and have no driving license, things will worsen for you. If you have already had your license suspended because of a DUI or DWI, and you go through a DUI arrest again, you could face DUI charges for the second offense, as well as driving on a suspended license. The maximum penalty for driving without a license can result in a 180-day license suspension for the first offense and up to a year of license suspension for the second offense. It will result in affecting your driving privileges. Unless you have a competent legal team, you may end up paying heavy fines and spending a lot of time in prison. If the charges are serious, you might have to serve mandatory jail time.

It is also important to note that you don’t have to move your vehicle an inch to be arrested for DUI. As long as you got behind the wheels of your car and inserted the keys in the ignition, you had control of the motor vehicle, and you, therefore, could be charged for DUI.

DUI Conviction Factors

There are various factors that affect how a person will be convicted for a DUI. Driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated can lead to getting jail time, depending on the circumstances of your arrest. Moreover, you will pay various fines and penalties based on multiple issues surrounding your case. You will pay fines of up to $1000 and 180 days of jail time for the first offense. Moreover, judges impose a mandatory ten days sentence for a blood-alcohol level above 0.20 and 15 days for 0.25, and 20 days for 0.30 percent of alcohol in 100ml of blood.

In case the offender commits a second DUI within 15 years after the first violation, you can end up paying fines between $2500 and $5000 and a minimum of 10 days in jail. Additionally, if the driver was below 17 years of age, in most instances, the child offender is charged $500 to $1000 for the first and subsequent DUI offenses.

Whether it is classified as a traffic violation or a misdemeanor, failing a breath test is considered a crime in many states, and thus, the best way forward is to reach out to a defense attorney. A capable lawyer can help ensure you win the case to avoid a criminal record and ultimately avoid spending up to a year in jail for a DUI offense, whether it is your first-time DUI or not.

Drunk Driving Felony

When your DUI case is classified as a felony, you are more likely to face severe consequences. Your case might be classified as a felony DUI if you caused an accident while intoxicated or if your blood alcohol content is very high.

Whichever the case, the best course of action is to contact a DUI attorney so that you can get a better chance of winning the case. Alternatively, a good defense team will help you reduce the severity of the charges.


How Long Does DUI Stay on Record?

A DUI charge stays on a driver’s record for 5 to 10 years and 3 to 5 years on your insurance record. Therefore, whether you receive a jail sentence or not, losing a DUI case will negatively affect your life and even career if an employer asks for your records.

DUI arrests are usually not public records, although individuals can make requests for those records of DC police. However, if you have been arrested on drunk driving charges and received a DUI conviction, that is a matter of public record. Criminal records are public, which means they can affect someone’s ability to get or keep a job.

That is why it is vital to reach out to the best DUI lawyers in Washington, DC, to help you in your case so that you can pay minimum fines or win the case against you. Moreover, a capable legal team will identify the weaknesses in your DUI case to ensure a favorable outcome. If you’re ready to begin building a strong case with the help of a top-rated DUI lawyer, contact attorney Joseph A. Scrofano of Scrofano Law, PC, today to schedule a consultation.


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