Building a Defense for First-Time DUI Charges in DC

Confronting the consequences of a first-time DUI charge can be difficult enough. Building a defense for first-time DUI charges is simpler when you choose an attorney with experience litigating first-time DUI charges in DC. When dealing with a first-offense, being proactive can make all the difference. If this is your first time facing a DUI charge, then the help of a knowledgeable DC DUI lawyer can be a great asset.


When convicted of a first offense DUI in DC, a person may face up to 180 days of jail, a maximum fine of $1,000 or both. They also face a possible court cost. Court costs typically range between $50 and $250. In the District, court costs go to the Crime Victims Compensation Program fund. This is a court fund that is distributed to victims of violent crimes to put them up in shelters or provide them with other services.

Defense Approaches

One method of building a defense for first-time DUI charges entails that the DUI defense lawyer approaches the case by considering any non-trial resolutions for which the person might be eligible. In first offense cases where the person has a relatively low blood alcohol content and there was no traffic accident, injuries, or other aggravating factors, the person might be eligible for deferred sentencing that can result in their case being dismissed once they complete specific conditions.

There are other factors that could make a person eligible for deferred sentencing such as weaknesses in the prosecutor’s evidence, problems with the prosecutor’s ability to be able to prove a person guilty at trial, and issues like missing evidence. These factors can be used as negotiation leverage to work out a favorable resolution without having to go to a trial.

Police Based Defense Approaches

When a DUI case is not eligible for more favorable non-trial options, defense attorneys look at a number of factors to raise defenses and seek a favorable outcome at trial. That can include information about why the police were originally called to the scene of a DUI investigation or what caused the driver to gain the attention of the police. The driver may have been involved in an alleged traffic infraction, an accident, or was engaged in illegal activity that drew the attention of the police. This is important to consider when determining whether the police had a constitutional basis to pull a driver over in the first place.

When building a defense for first-time DUI charges, DUI defense lawyers also look at the interactions between their client and the police after being pulled over. The police may claim that the driver had slurred speech, an odor of alcohol on their breath, or was otherwise behaving in a way that is consistent with intoxication. A lack of evidence in the interaction between a police officer and a driver may provide a driver with a defense against allegations of intoxication by the police.

A DUI defense lawyer can review any field sobriety tests conducted to identify any problems with the manner in which police officers conducted those tests. Police officers now wear body cameras that give the defense lawyer a window into the performance of the field sobriety test to see whether the officer described them accurately in their report compared to the way the tests show on the body camera footage.

Test-Based Approaches

The lawyer also looks at the results of any breath, blood, or urine testing. This can sometimes be the most important part of building a defense for first-time DUI charges in a case. When there are issues with breathalyzer testing machines or no breath test was given, that can make the difference in how a defense lawyer approaches a DUI case. DC has a per se violation of DUI laws that says that when someone has a blood alcohol content of a 0.08 or higher, they are automatically considered to be impaired by DC legal standards. That means that even if a person has no problems with driving or performs field sobriety tests perfectly, they could still be convicted of a DUI based only on the results of a breath test.

A DC DUI defense lawyer reviews the results of any breath, blood, or urine testing to identify possible challenges to those results and whether the breath test results could be used to their client’s advantage. Sometimes providing a breath test is helpful for a person’s case when the blood alcohol content is at a relatively low level. The person only had a few drinks and was not at very high level of intoxication. In those situations, if all the other factors also are in a person’s favor, the person may be able to resolve their case without having to go to trial.