TRAFFIC ALCOHOL OFFENSES IN WASHINGTON DC

Paul Hunt is an experienced Washington DC DWI Lawyer who understands the subtle nuances that can be the very difference in winning or losing a traffic alcohol case. The District of Columbia has three separate individual charges related to “drunk driving” or driving after consuming other intoxicating substances. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Driving Under the Influence (DUI), and Operating While Impaired (OWI).

Under District of Columbia law, to be charged with a DWI, a driver must be operating or in physical control of a motor vehicle and have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater. A person only has to be “in physical control” of a motor vehicle, meaning a person could be charged with DWI even though that person was simply sitting in a parked car with the ignition on.

As a DWI lawyer, Paul Hunt has been successful at filing motions to suppress in the Superior Court, when officers arrive late on a scene and do not observe a driver operating the vehicle despite some circumstantial evidence.

In a recent DWI case:

In Schram v. District of Columbia, 485 A.2d 623 (D.C. 1984), the same court held that after an accident when it took some time for the police to arrive, that the defendant could not be found to have been operating a vehicle when she was no longer in her car. In such a case, the DC Court of appeals found that the arrest was unlawful and that subsequent evidence, including a Breathalyzer test must be suppressed. Generally, a police officer can test a person’s blood alcohol concentration by conducting two chemical tests (breath, urine, blood, or a combination of two different types of tests) on a suspected drunk driver. A person is considered “per se” intoxicated if their BAC is .08 or above. This means that you can be charged with and convicted of DWI even though your actual driving was not affected by your alcohol consumption. The government is not required to prove that the person’s driving was actually impaired in order to prove you are guilty of DWI.

Due to the Washington DC implied consent law, a driver who is suspected of “drunk driving” and who refuses to take any chemical tests may be still be charged with a crime and may have his or her licensed revoked for up to one year. This charge is known as DUI refusal in the District of Columbia.

That said, for persons who will score above the limit where there is mandatory jail time in a case, it can be beneficial to the defense to do the trial case where jail time is at stake without the per se evidence that would cause the court to have to impose jail time.

An Experienced DWI Lawyer Knows Law Changes

Washington, DC has taken a more severe position toward traffic alcohol violations. District of Columbia sentence drivers whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels measures above 0.20 percent to mandatory minimum sentences. Another component of the region’s zero tolerance enforcement focuses on drivers who operate their vehicle with a minor in the car while intoxicated or have and accident causing injuries.

Commercial drivers can expect to lose their license to operate a vehicle for at least 6 months if convicted or they plead guilty to a traffic alcohol offense. The District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles has a separate enforcement track with regard to suspensions of operating permits in the District of Columbia which is discussed with all clients. We will discuss the best strategy with you in regards to your case and Mr. Hunt will represent you at all hearing and court dates in your case.

Below Are Possible Penalties For DUI Convictions In Washington DC

Please note that serious, mandatory minimum jail sentences will be enforced in such cases.

DUI First Offense – Maximum $1,000 fine, up to 90 days in jail; license suspension of six months with enhanced minimum jail sentences [§ 50-2206.13 (a)]:
• BAC of 0.20 or higher – mandatory minimum of 10 days;
• BAC of 0.25or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 15 days (which cannot be suspended);
• BAC of 0.30or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 20 days (which cannot be suspended);
• A 15-day mandatory-minimum jail sentence for any detectable level of a schedule I drug(e.g. PCP, Cocaine, Methadone).

DUI Second Offense – $2,500-$5,000 fine, minimum 10 days to one year in jail and/or both fines and jail sentence, license suspension of one year, with enhanced minimum jail sentences [§ 50-2206.13 (b)]:
• BAC of 0.20 or higher – mandatory minimum of 15 days;
• BAC of 0.25or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 20 days (which cannot be suspended);
• BAC of 0.30or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 25 days (which cannot be suspended);
• A 20-day mandatory-minimum jail sentence for any detectable level of a schedule I drug(e.g. PCP, Cocaine, Methadone).

DUI Third offense –$2,500-$10,000 fine, 15 days to one year in jail (or both) license suspension of one year, with enhanced minimum jail sentences [§ 50-2206.13 (c) & (d)]:
• BAC of 0.20 or higher – mandatory minimum of 15 days;
• BAC of 0.25or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 20 days (which cannot be suspended);
• BAC of 0.30or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 25 days (which cannot be suspended);
• A 20-day mandatory-minimum jail sentence for any detectable amount of drugs.

DUI Fourth or subsequent offense) – An additional 30-day mandatory minimum jail sentence added to the appropriate third offense minimum. Once you reach four or more DUI convictions over a 15 year period, or incur other civil liability penalties which indicate to the DC Department of Motor Vehicles that you hold no regard for DUI laws, the DMV can revoke your driver’s license indefinitely.

WHAT HAPPENS?

It all starts with the traffic stop. Traffic stops can occur when a police officer pulls you over because of some reasons that must be Constitutional to support the stop. DC police officers are trained to look for “clues” of intoxication. After an initial assessment, an officer trained in Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) will be called in if not already on the scene. They may administer standard tests such as the one leg stand, walk and turn as well as the vertical and horizontal nystagmus tests that are designed to observe flickering in a person’s eyes as the follow a pen to maximum deviation. Field sobriety tests may also be used. If you fail one or more of these tests, this will likely be used as probable cause to place you under arrest for suspicion of DUI. Once you are arrested, you will be asked to undergo a chemical breath or blood test to determine your level of intoxication. Refusal to provide a breath or blood sample can lead to an automatic suspension of your license under the DC Implied Consent law. However, it is important to realize that there is a track record of errors inherent in the SFST and chemical testing systems that have been documented in the media.

Further, as detailed in the following paragraph, specialized knowledge of a trial lawyer who has done major criminal cases as wells as DWI representation can peel back and present the material facts to affect the outcome of your case in a positive way. Generally, an effective DWI lawyer can challenge the results of your SFSTs and other evidence obtained by police and prosecutors. A winning lawyer will produce results from what appear to be, at first, small details. Please read the next section if you are facing DWI charges in the District of Columbia.

WHAT DO I DO WHEN I AM CHARGED WITH DWI IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA?

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a criminal charge that carries consequences which reach beyond the DMV. If you have been charged with DWI in Washington, DC, you should consider contacting a Washington DC DWI lawyer who has the experience and court room presence to zealously protect your rights. DWI attorney Paul Hunt has recent documented cases where one offender avoided jail time when the correct motion to suppress, was filed because of lack of police observations of the defendant operating the vehicle. In another trial case, this firm successfully defended an attempt to incarcerate a young female client who had a minor in the car at the time she arrested. The defense involved the lack of admissible evidence by the police to prove the age of the minor based on the circumstances and resulted in Judge Morin of the Superior Court finding that there was insufficient evidence to prove the enhancement. This is the type of aggressive lawyering that is documented in court records where people avoid going to jail because they chose the right lawyer.

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