DC DUI Definitions

There are a number of terms and definitions that apply to most, if not all, DUI charges in DC. To have a complete understanding of these terms and how they apply to your individual case, you should speak with an experienced DUI attorney who has experience deftly defending individuals from DUI charges within DC.

What is a BAC and What is it Used for?

Blood alcohol content is also called blood alcohol concentration or blood alcohol level. One’s BAC is most commonly used as a measurement of intoxication for criminal or traffic charges and legal proceedings.


Driving Under the Influence. This is an offense that occurs when an individual operates or is in physical control of a motor vehicle while appreciably impaired by alcohol, drugs, medication, or a combination thereof; or when a driver under the age of 21 is found with any amount of alcohol or a controlled substance in his or her system. The government is not required to produce the results of a chemical test in order to prove that a driver was appreciably impaired. However, there are enhanced penalties that come into effect when a driver is convicted of DUI with high BAC levels or when traces of certain drugs are detected in the driver’s blood or urine.


Driving While Intoxicated. This is an impaired driving offense that occurs when an individual operates a motor vehicle with a BAC at or above 0.08. In these situations, the BAC alone is sufficient evidence to meet the impairment standard in the DUI offense. Because the penalties for DWI are the same as for DUI, and because the evidence presented to prove a DWI are also sufficient to prove a DUI, prosecutors in DC typically only charge people with DUI, not DWI.


Operating a Vehicle while Impaired is the least severe of the impaired driving offenses in DC, and is commonly referred to as a “wet reckless” law. The evidence a prosecutor would need to produce to prove OWI is the same as for a DUI.

DC DUI Testing Devices

There are a number of chemical testing devices that test a person’s BAC and may be used by police officers. Below is some explanation of some of the more common devices, along with how they are implemented in DUI situations.

How is a Breathalyzer Used as a DUI Testing Device?

This is a brand name for devices (created first by Smith and Wesson, then National Draeger) that estimate the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood by a chemical analysis of a person’s breath sample. This kind of device is called a breath analysis device (or breath analyzer), and the Breathalyzer models have been phased out by most law enforcement departments in all states because of the availability of newer devices with more sophisticated, accurate, and convenient technology. Nevertheless, many people commonly refer to breath analyzers or breath analysis devices as Breathalyzers because of the widespread use of the Breathalyzer models in earlier years. The Breathalyzer device estimates the amount of blood alcohol content on the basis of a chemical reaction with alcohol in a breath sample, which causes a color change.


A breath analysis device, or breath analyzer, which uses infrared spectroscopy to identify ethanol molecules in a breath sample by the way the molecules absorb infrared light. The device then interprets and calculates an estimate of blood alcohol content based on the absorption of infrared light.


Alco-Sensor’s breath analysis device, which detects a chemical reaction of alcohol from a breath sample in a fuel cell. The fuel cell technology essentially uses a chemical reaction with alcohol to produce an electric current that measures breath alcohol content and then extrapolates the blood alcohol content. Intoximeters sometimes also use infrared spectrometry, or a combination or infrared technology and fuel cell technology.

Preliminary Breath Test (PBT)

A preliminary breath test is a portable breath analyzer that police officers often use in the field (e.g., when someone is pulled over). However, PBT results are rarely admissible in court because the devices themselves are more prone to be inaccurate, and the conditions under which they are used often can lead to inaccurate results. The breath analysis that will be presented in court, should you be charged with a DUI, will likely be from the breath analysis device located at the police department’s booking site that is not portable and that must be maintained under perfect conditions for the sole purpose of providing admissible evidence.

Contact a DC DUI Lawyer

A dedicated DC DUI Attorney will be up-to-date on all of the current trends and testing methods for these devices, putting him at an advantage when it comes to fighting the effectiveness, and the admissibility, of the evidence they produce. A DC DUI attorney has extensive experience in scrutinizing DUI cases, involving alcohol and other intoxicants, and is passionate about this area of criminal defense. They will not rest until he has achieved the best possible results in your case.