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What Is Mandatory Jail DUI Sentencing in DC?


Your guide to understanding mandatory jail DUI sentencing in DC and other potential penalties of driving under the influence.

Mandatory Jail Time DUI


When it comes to a DUI jail time, a mandatory minimum sentence involves a sentence in county jail that a judge can’t or doesn’t have the discretion to go below. It can depend on different factors, as well as on the number of prior DUI offenses the individual has committed.

Every U.S. state has pretty strict DUI laws, and the District of Columbia is not different. For example, in DC, an individual doesn’t even have to be driving a vehicle to be charged with an alcohol-related offense. If someone has as little as 0.02 percent of the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) but sits behind the wheel and the key is in the ignition, they could be facing an Operating while impaired charge (OWI).

Operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.05 or higher can result in a DUI charge. At the same time, operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or above can result in a Driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge.

Of course, penalties for every DUI/DWI offense depend on the driver’s BAC content, their driving record, and evidence of unsafe driving. However, some offenses carry mandatory minimum jail sentences. If you are facing a DUI charge, it’s crucial you reach out to a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible so they can create an appropriate defense.


Mandatory Jail Time for DUI Conviction

According to DC DUI laws, every individual driving within the District of Columbia is considered to have given consent to any test a law enforcement officer suggests that would determine the presence of drugs or alcohol in their system. That is called the implied consent law. Refusal to take the test can result in driver’s license suspension.

If the driver has been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, refuses to test, and has prior alcohol-related offenses, they will be presumed to be under the influence. Refusal can also lead to mandatory minimum jail time.

Mandatory DUI Sentencing


Mandatory DUI sentencing is most often present in case of a second and any subsequent DUI offense. For example, if an individual already has one DUI conviction within the past 15 years, he or she could face a minimum jail sentence of 10 days if convicted of a second DUI offense in Washington D.C.

When DUI offenders are charged for a third drunk driving offense within 15 years, they would have to spend a minimum of 15 days in jail.

Also, those who already have DUI convictions should know that if they refuse to take the test, they could face mandatory minimum sentences of jail time. Refusal to take the chemical test in case of a second drunk driving conviction could result in a mandatory jail sentence of 10 days. If they are facing a third DUI arrest and refuse to take the test, a conviction would result in 12 days of mandatory jail.


DUI Sentencing

The possible and mandatory penalties for DUI offenses depend on the number of prior OWI, DWI, and DUI convictions within the last 15 years. Although the judge has the discretion to choose whether to impose jail time, DUI fines, or both, jail time is required for a second and any subsequent DUI offense.


DUI Penalties by State

DWI and DUI penalties in Washington D.C. include the following:

  • First Offense: up to 180 days in prison; $1,000 fine; 6-month driver’s license revocation
  • Second Offense: up to one year in prison; $2,500-$5,000 fine; 1-year revocation of driving privileges
  • Third Offense: up to 1 year in prison; $2,500-$10,000; revocation of driving privileges for two years

Also, penalties can include installing an Ignition Interlock Device for at least six months.

Bear in mind that although OWI is considered a lesser offense, it can also lead to a mandatory jail sentence. For example, the first conviction for OWI would result in a $500 fine and a maximum possible jail sentence of 90 days. However, those convicted of a second OWI in 15 years will spend a mandatory five days in county jail, while a third conviction within 15 years can lead to a minimum of 10 days in county jail.

Jail Time DUI: Is There a Mandatory Minimum Jail Sentence for a First DUI?


In most cases, first-time DUI offenders don’t face mandatory jail time, and the maximum jail sentence is 180 days. But, certain circumstances could result in mandatory minimum jail penalties.

For example, an individual who, after a DUI arrest, provides a sample of their blood or urine and the result demonstrates a BAC of 0.20 or higher or urine alcohol content of 0.25 or higher, he or she will be eligible for a mandatory minimum of ten days of jail time.

In addition, if the driver’s blood alcohol content is above 0.25, they will be eligible for 15 days of a mandatory minimum jail penalty. Lastly, a BAC above 0.30 will, in case the driver is convicted, will lead to a mandatory jail time of 20 days even for a first offense DUI.

Mandatory jail penalty is also possible if a blood or urine of a first-time DUI offender contained serious drugs, such as cocaine or heroin or if a DUI offender had a minor in the car with them.

Mandatory minimum sentences also apply to drivers operating a commercial vehicle. They must serve a minimum of 5 days in jail if their BAC level is above .04.


How Long Is Jail Time for DUI Offenses?

When certain aggravating factors are present in a DUI case, a judge could impose harsher penalties. The aggravating factors a judge would look at include, for instance, if the person’s blood alcohol content is elevated, whether there was an accident involved resulting in a serious injury, and the time between drunk driving offenses.

An impaired driver transporting a minor is considered an aggravating factor regardless of whether the child is hurt. That driver would face 5 days mandatory minimum jail penalty for each minor adequately restrained in an appropriate car seat, in addition to other penalties. But, if the minor weren’t properly restrained or in an appropriate car seat, the driver would face a mandatory ten days in jail.

Impaired drivers who have a Schedule I controlled substance or drug in their system will face 15 days of mandatory jail time for a first offense. Bear in mind the mandatory sentence will increase with each subsequent conviction.

How Can DUI Defense Attorney Help with Jail Sentence for DUI


There are several alternatives to jail penalties in DUI cases. They are called diversion programs and can be available to certain individuals who are facing DUI charges for the first time. These individuals may be eligible for the deferred sentencing agreement, which is obtained through a negotiation between the prosecution and a DUI lawyer.

Diversion programs may include community service, an alcohol treatment program, and other DUI programs. In addition, taking some type of traffic alcohol program is almost always imposed on defendants convicted of DUI in DC.

Whatever drunk driving offense you are facing, driving under the influence charges can negatively impact your everyday life, job, and even your valid driver’s license.

Although felony DUI charges don’t exist in DC (a felony offense is defined as a criminal charge which carries the maximum possible penalty of more than one year of prison time), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire an experienced DUI lawyer.

The severity of your current DUI offense, BAC level, and prior DUI offenses will be important factors when determining if you are eligible for a mandatory minimum sentence in county jail. Don’t forget that you will also be subject to penalties of the Department of Motor Vehicles such as a driver’s license suspension, fines, court costs, and other personal collateral consequences.

If you decide to fight your charges, DUI lawyer Joseph A. Scrofano of Scrofano Law firm can help you. We will try our best to protect your future and freedom.


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