Washington, DC Drunk Driving Charges Explained
In the Washington, DC area, there are three types of “Drunk Driving” offenses. Each type requires different elements and carries a different sentence if convicted. I have included some general information below, but every situation is unique.
You should contact a DC drunk driving lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case. Always remember that an arrest is not a conviction. There is more information posted in our DC DUI and DWI Frequently Asked Questions section.
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
The most common drunk driving charge in Washington, DC is Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). If you have been charged with a DWI in the District of Columbia, the government is required to prove, through the use of blood, breath, or urine tests, that the defendant operated a vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter of blood. The government is not required to prove that the driver was actually suffering any type of impairment.
Any BAC of 0.08 grams is sufficient for the DC police to make a DWI arrest. However, if your BAC is higher, there may be additional punishment such as mandatory jail time. You may also be ineligible for certain diversionary programs such as a Deferred Sentencing Agreement (DSA). The punishment for a first offense DWI based upon blood or breath scores in the District of Columbia is as follows:
|BAC Reading||Fine||DSA Status|
|0.08 to 0.09||Up to $1000 and a maximum of 180 days in jail – (can be suspended)||eligible|
|0.10 to 0.19||Up to $1,000 and a maximum of 180 days in jail – (can be suspended)||ineligible|
|0.20 to 0.25||Up to $1,000 and a maximum of 180 days in jail – Mandatory 10 days in jail||ineligible|
|0.25+||Up to $1,000 and a maximum of 180 days in jail – Mandatory 15 days in jail||ineligible|
If you have been arrested and charged with a DWI, contact a Washington, DC DWI lawyer as soon as possible. You have a right to challenge the suspension at the DMV before going to court, but time is of the essence. Please feel free to contact my office at (202) 596- 5716 for a free consultation.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
The second type of drunk driving charge is Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Here, the government is required to prove that the defendant operated a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating alcohol or drugs and that their ability to drive was impaired. The government can use a variety of methods including observation, blood or urine tests, or field sobriety tests. This is harder to prove than a DWI in some ways, but the officers will usually look at all of your actions and statements made during the arrest. As your Washington, DC DUI lawyer will explain to you, a DUI does not require any specific BAC reading for a conviction. The penalty for a first offense DUI is the same as a DWI – a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum of 180 days in jail.
If you have been charged with a DUI in the District of Columbia, a skilled DUI defense lawyer can question the arresting offer on the witness stand and look for any errors made when performing a field sobriety test or other police procedures.
Operating While Impaired (OWI)
A third type of drunk driving offense in Washington, DC is Operating While Impaired (OWI). An OWI is the easiest of the drunk driving charges for the DC Attorney General’s Office to prove. The sentence for a first offense OWI is a fine of $200 to $300 and up to thirty days in jail.
They are required to prove that the defendant operated a vehicle while being impaired in any way by alcohol. An OWI is not recognized by every state in the nation. This may mean that if you are an out-of-state driver, your driving privileges will be revoked in the District of Columbia, but your home state may allow you to keep your license. If you have a Washington, DC driver’s license, it may be suspended or revoked, preventing you from driving anywhere.