D.C. DUI 101

What Constitutes a D.C. DUI? How About DWI?

In the District of Columbia, the prosecution needs to prove that the drunk driver was operating a vehicle – which may only include sitting at the wheel with the keys in the ignition – at the time of arrest, and had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08 grams to secure a conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI). According to D.C. Code 50-2201.05(b), the prosecution does not need to prove that the driver was actually driving the vehicle while intoxicated, which is a legal requirement for securing a driving under the influence conviction.

What Is an Offender Likely to Face? How Does This Change After Repeated Offenses?

The penalty for a first conviction of D.C. DWI/DUI is a $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail; however, at the discretion of the judge, both the fine and the jail sentence can be suspended. Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20 to 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of blood are subject to a 5-day mandatory jail sentence, which is the minimum and cannot be suspended. Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration greater than 0.25 grams are subject to an additional 10-day jail sentence.

The penalty for a second conviction within a 15-year period is more severe. Convicted drivers are subject to a $1000 to $5000 fine and must serve a minimum of five days in jail, with the possibility of serving up to a year. If the driver’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.20 to 0.25 grams, the driver is subject to a mandatory 10-day jail sentence. If the blood alcohol is greater than 0.25 grams, the sentence increases to an additional 20 days of mandatory jail time.

The penalty for a third conviction within a 15-year period is the most severe, with a fine of $2,000 to $10,000. Convicted drivers can choose between serving a mandatory 10-day to one year jail sentence or carrying out a minimum of 60 days of community service. Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20 to 0.25 grams will be ordered to serve an additional 15 days of mandatory jail time. If the blood alcohol concentration reaches at least 0.25 grams, the sentence increases to 25 days.

The law is especially tough on drivers found to have been transporting a minor at the time of the arrest. This offence carries an additional fine of $500 to $1000 and the driver must complete 48 hours of community service benefiting children. All subsequent offenders are subject to 80 hours of community service per D.C. Code 50-2201.05.

Can You Get a Restricted License?

If your license is suspended in D.C., you may still be allowed to drive under certain conditions, such as traveling to and from college or your place of business. You must request in writing a hearing, however, through a local DMV service location to obtain a restricted license.

What Can a Reader Expect at a Court-Mandated DUI Program? How Long Are They? Cost?

A court-mandated DUI program includes an alcohol counseling and treatment program in which offenders learn about the negative effects of drinking and driving. The length of the program for people charged with DWI, DUI, or OWI depends on the severity of the driver’s drinking habits. At 12 weeks, social drinkers are ordered to attend the shortest program, and, at 18 weeks, severe drinker are ordered to attend the longest program. Costs vary, and are generally several hundred dollars. (Fees may be waived in some D.C. DUI cases.)