DC DUI Lawyer

Virtually everyone can attest to the sense of nervousness and frustration one feels when seeing a police officer’s flashing lights in the rearview mirror. For many people, such an experience leads to a citation for a minor traffic infraction, and the only real consequence is the annoyance of paying a traffic ticket. For those who have been drinking, however, what begins as a nuisance can quickly turn into a nightmare. If you are pulled over and suspected of driving under the influence, you can decline to answer any questions without the presence or advice of your Washington, DC DUI lawyer. To learn more about your rights during a traffic stop and how an attorney could help fight DUI charges, contact an accomplished defense attorney. After assessing your case, a lawyer could best decide which defense strategies and arguments could best fit you. Call and set up a free consultation with a dedicated and skilled attorney today.

Understanding DC DUI and DWI Laws

To be charged with driving while intoxicated in DC, a driver must have allegedly operated a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or higher. No further evidence of intoxication is necessary due to the “per se” provision in the DWI law (DC Code Section 50-2206.01).

Under the same law, a person can be charged with driving under the influence by operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.05 to 0.08, or “while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug or any combination thereof.”

No evidence of a BAC is required for the prosecution of a DUI charge. Rather, a prosecutor can call an arresting officer to testify to circumstantial evidence including watery eyes, slurred speech, or bloodshot eyes, and failed sobriety tests to prove a driver was under the influence.

A skilled DC DUI attorney could help contest this evidence and provide additional evidence and testimony to counter these claims. It is important to note that driving while intoxicated and driving under the influence have the same penalties.

Expectations for a First-Time DUI Case

When you first get arrested for a DUI, you will get a court date for about three to four weeks from the date of your arrest. The first court date is your arraignment date. On your arraignment date, you should be there with your lawyer and your attorney will plead you not guilty and set you a second court date that will be in approximately four or five weeks. At that point a DUI lawyer in Washington, D.C. will have the opportunity to go over the police reports and all the evidence the prosecutor plans on using and try to develop potential defenses. Those defenses can then be used in negotiations to try to resolve a person’s case in a favorable way or to decide whether or not it is a wise decision to go to trial. An individual can also expect that the judge will ask them to get assessed for an alcohol program through the court.

Drunk Driving Penalties in Washington DC

In DC, if you provide a breath sample or a blood sample upon being arrested and your blood alcohol content comes out at a .20 or higher, then you face a mandatory minimum of ten days in jail, and that has to be served all at once.

The judge is required to sentence you to at least those ten days in jail. It does not matter if you have a job, if you have never been arrested, who you are, what else you have done, or any alcohol treatment programs that you have completed. The judge is required to give you at least ten days in jail if your blood alcohol content is higher than .20. The same ten-day minimum also applies if you are convicted of a second-offense DUI.

The other very important item to remember about DUI laws is that DC only requires that you be in physical or operational control of the car, therefore, you do not actually have to be driving the car in order to be convicted of a DUI. You just have to have the ability to be in control of the car. This means if you are in the driver’s seat and the keys are in the ignition, that is enough for you to be found guilty of a DUI. This is because you are in operational control of the vehicle. However, this is different for people who have cars that do not require you to put your key in the ignition. For example, in a car with keyless ignition, a person could be in operational control of the vehicle as long as they are inside the car even if the car is not on or the key is in their pocket, because all they have to do is push the start button to start the car.

If the defendant is charged with their first DWI or DUI, if convicted, the individual could face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail. However, if a person’s BAC is between .20 and .25, they will face a mandatory ten-day jail sentence. Furthermore, if the BAC is between .25 and .30, the driver will face a mandatory 15 days in jail. Lastly, a BAC above .30 will result, in the case of conviction, in a mandatory 20 days in jail.

If a person has been charged with a DWI or DUI and has received a prior drunk driving conviction within the past 15 years, they could face a fine of $2,500 to $5,000, and may be imprisonment for at least ten days and up to one year. More than one prior drunk driving conviction in the preceding 15 years carries a $2,500 to $10,000 fine, and a jail sentence of no more than one year and no less than a mandatory minimum 15-day jail sentence.

Moreover, if one has been charged with driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence and has prior drunk driving convictions (DUI, DWI, or OWI), the enhanced penalties for driving with a high BAC include a longer mandatory jail sentence.

DUI laws in Washington, DC include additional penalties for impaired drivers transporting a minor. A fine of $500 to $1,000 will be imposed, along with the mandatory jail sentence of five days if the minor was wearing a seat belt or in a car seat.

Conversely, if the minor was not wearing a seat belt or in a car seat, the driver will face a mandatory ten days in jail.

DC has a “zero tolerance” law for DWI or DUI drivers under 21. If an underage driver has any measurable amount of alcohol in their system, they will be charged according to DUI standards.

In addition, the driver faces charges for using a fake ID. A DUI attorney in DC could further explain how DUI and fake ID charges may interact in your case. Contact a lawyer if you have questions about how these penalties may apply to your case.

Drivers Rights During a Traffic Stop

An experienced DUI attorney in the District of Columbia has a number of tools readily available to help you fight your DUI charge. However, you can make the situation easier or more difficult by the choices you make beginning with your initial traffic stop. It is important to understand your rights and to protect them. Keep in mind that you have the right to remain silent, even prior to your arrest and being read your rights. If an officer asks where you have been, if you have been drinking, or how much you have had to drink, you do not have to answer. Giving a statement in an effort to look helpful and compliant can give authorities the evidence they need to prosecute and can jeopardize your defense.

If an officer finds probable cause, they may ask the individual to take a breathalyzer test. There is no universal rule for whether a person should give or refuse a breathalyzer test in DC. Every person’s situation is different. Sometimes, it may be to a person’s advantage to give a breathalyzer test. For instance, if the individual has not previously been arrested for driving under the influence, they have had a relatively small amount of alcohol to drink, and they are at a fairly low level of intoxication, then it may be in their best interests to take a breath test.

However, the person should be aware of how their breath sample can be used as evidence against them. If someone gives a breath sample, it can be evidence usable in court against them and could be enough to have them convicted at trial. Someone refusing to give a breath sample might potentially have a stronger case at trial. But, refusing to give a breath sample, in some situations, can eliminate many non-trial options that can give a person a favorable outcome to their case without having to take the risk or pay the financial cost of taking a DUI case to a trial.

If an individual does give a breath sample and they are extremely intoxicated, that blood alcohol content result could mean that they would be eligible for mandatory jail time. There are many considerations for a person when deciding whether or not to give a breath sample. It is always dependent on an individual person’s situation rather than a rule that applies to everyone. Contact a DC attorney if you have any questions about your rights during a DUI traffic stop.

The Implied Consent Law

If you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in DC, you may be read an Implied Consent Notice and asked to submit to blood alcohol analysis, generally through a breathalyzer machine such as the Intoxilyzer. Implied consent law says that by driving on the roads, the individual has agreed to submit a blood alcohol analysis if asked to do so from law enforcement. Failure to consent to this test leads to the automatic suspension of your license. Even if you are acquitted of DUI charges or if your case is dismissed, the license suspension remains in place for refusal to submit to testing.

Blood alcohol concentration from Intoxilyzer analysis is the most frequently used evidence by prosecutors. However, a skilled DC lawyer could challenge the results of the test, perhaps leading to the dismissal of your DUI case or a verdict of not guilty. There is a certain way to conduct these test in order to ensure an accurate result. An attorney who is trained in the proper maintenance of breathalyzer machines and the administration of sobriety tests could identify any improprieties or inconsistencies and utilize them to bring into question the accuracy of blood alcohol analysis results.

Criminal Cases vs. Administrative Hearings

In every DUI case, two separate proceedings are involved. The first is the criminal case that takes place in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. This is the portion of the case where the government is trying to punish a person by putting them in jail, imposing a fine, and other punitive sanctions.

The second is the administrative proceeding. Through this proceeding, the DC Department of Motor Vehicles will usually decide whether to suspend the driver’s license for up to three years. The only way to prevent this license suspension is to request an administrative hearing within the specified period of days of the service of the notice. If this hearing is not requested in a timely manner, the accused’s license could be summarily suspended. Once the hearing is requested, it could put any revocation action on hold until the hearing. A DUI lawyer in DC could stand by your side and advocate for you during a hearing.

Building a Strong Defense Against Intoxicated Driving Charges

An experienced lawyer in DC could challenge the accuracy or the admissibility of any evidence when preparing for proceedings and possible defenses against the prosecution of a DUI charge. This includes the accuracy of the police officer’s recollections or statements, challenging the legal or constitutional basis for the person’s arrest, and challenging any searches or questioning the police officer engages in while conducting an investigation.

Also, an investigation could include ensuring that the prosecutors provide the evidence necessary to prove any breath, blood, or urine alcohol content levels that supposedly prove a person’s intoxication. The tests have documentation and scientific evidence that must be provided to the defense team that ensures their reliability and their accuracy. It is the role of a DUI defense lawyer to make sure that the prosecutor preserves and turns over any evidence that backs up their allegations and their alcohol tests.

The most important quality for an attorney to possess is the ability to negotiate a favorable resolution with prosecutors at the beginning of every DUI case rather than settling the case or proceeding to trial for the finding of a guilty or not guilty verdict by a judge.

Defense attorneys want to approach the prosecutors with the possibility of resolving a case in a favorable way. That includes negotiations to minimize any jail time a person may face. In some DUI cases, people face a possibility of jail time but in other cases, negotiations could result in the complete dismissal of DUI charges.

DC is different from many other jurisdictions concerning DUI offenses as the judges have little control over how these cases proceed from the beginning. In some states, judges can reduce or dismiss charges, or play a role in plea negotiations. That does not happen in DC through the judge. Instead, it only occurs between defense attorneys and prosecutors. It is the responsibility of the defense attorney to aggressively pursue negotiations to see if there are any options short of a trial that can achieve a positive result while at the same time minimize any risks they may face. A tenacious attorney works diligently to decrease the impact that a DUI arrest may have on the defendant’s permanent criminal record.