Call Us: 202-630-0939

Washington, DC DUI Court Process

by | Mar 15, 2011

Washington, DC DUI and DWI charges involve both a criminal case at the Traffic Division of the DC Superior Court and an administrative hearing at the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  The court case will determine if you are convicted of the drunk driving charge on which you were arrested, and any potential punishment such as jail, fines, community service, etc.  The DMV hearing will determine whether you lose your license, are required to get high-risk insurance (SR-22), and any fines.

Your Washington, DC DUI attorney at the Law Office of Joseph Scrofano offers a comprehensive defense to anyone facing drunk driving charges in Washington, DC.   By representing you at the DMV hearing, your attorney can not only fight the suspension of your driving privileges, but will also have the opportunity see what the government is going to try and use against you in criminal court.
District of Columbia DMV

Administrative Hearing:
Under Washington, DC law, after being arrested on suspicion of a drunk driving offence (DUI, DWI, or OUI) there is only a short period of time to request a hearing to prevent your driver’s license from being suspended pending the outcome of the criminal case.   The period of time to request this hearing begins when you receive an Official Notice of Proposed Suspension.  The specific length of time depends on whether you have a Washington, DC license or an out-of-state driver’s license.

  • Washington, DC license: A motorist arrested for drunk driving has only five days from the time he or she receives the Official Notice of Proposed Suspension to request a hearing.
  • Out of state driver’s license:  In this case, Washington, DC law allows 10 days from the time you receive your Official Notice of Proposed Suspension to request a DMV hearing.

If you fail to request a DMV hearing within the time allowed by DC law, your driving privileges will be automatically suspended.  You should also know that if you refuse to take a breath test, you are in volition of the implied consent law in the District of Columbia and your license will automatically be suspended.   Washington, DC law does not consider a breath test refusal to be a separate crime at the time this article was written.
Once you have requested an administrative hearing, the DC DMV will schedule when you and your Washington, DC DUI lawyer can attend.  Your lawyer will have a chance to ask questions of the arresting officer and get a look at the evidence that will be presented against you at trial.

Washington, DC DUI Criminal Proceedings:

After being released from the police station, you will normally be given a summons telling you when you need to go the Traffic Division of the DC Superior Court.  Unless you have an open warrant, or there was a serious personal injury, it is unlikely that you will be held in custody and transferred to the Central Cell Block (CCB).  You should call a Washington, DC DUI lawyer as soon as possible to insure that your rights are protected, and you do not miss any opportunities that can help you with your case.

  • DO NOT MISS YOUR COURT DATE – doing so will result in a warrant for Failure to Appear (FTA) being issued.  This is a separate serious criminal charge in Washington, DC that may result in you going to jail.

Before your first court date, the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG) will “paper” your case for DUI, DWI, or OWI charges depending on the facts at hand.  Papering a case means filing formal charges against you.  Here is a list of the standard court days and what they involve:

1. Arraignment– This when the charges against you are formally read into the record.  You are given a chance to plead guilty or not guilty. It is highly recommended that you consult a Washington, DC DUI attorney before your arraignment so you will already have someone looking after your rights and helping to fight the charges.
2.  – At the arraignment, the prosecutor will give you their standard discovery packet.  This is not good enough!  Your drunk driving defense lawyer should file a Rosser letter requesting much more information from the government.

3.  Status date – Prosecutors and your defense attorney will meet and discuss the status of the case.  This is where you see what the government will offer you, and if you are not satisfied, you will make it clear that you want to fight your Washington, DC DWI charge at trial.

4.  – This is where many DC drunk driving cases are won.  The OAG needs to admit evidence at trial.  That evidence may consist of Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) scores, breathalyzer results, the officer’s observations, any statements made by you at the time of your arrest, and a variety of other things.   From attending the DMV hearing, your attorney may already have a good idea of what the witnesses are going to say.  If the evidence against you gets excluded from being used at trial, the government may have no choice but to dismiss some or all of the charges against you.

5.  – If after speaking with your Washington, DC DWI defense attorney, you decide to take the case to trial, this is where the government is forced to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  Always remember that an arrest is not a conviction.

If you are facing a DUI, DWI, or OWI charge in Washington, DC, contact Scrofano Law, PC today for a consultation.