The DC Legal Process for First Time DUIs

First time DUI charges in DC are always heard in the DC Superior Court which is the trial court in Washington, DC. They are prosecuted by the DC Attorney General’s Office which is one of the two prosecutor’s offices in Washington, DC, the other being the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. A DC DUI lawyer can guide you through your court proceedings for a first time DUI case.

Judges and Juries For First Time DC DUI Cases

Judges typically approach first offenders from a position of sympathy, understanding that many people make mistakes for the first time and should be spared the harsher penalties of severe jail time on first offense DUIs. However, in Washington DC, our laws and our procedures sometimes limit the discretion that judges have in many circumstances. As an example, in Washington DC, judges do not have the power to change or reduce the charges filed by the Attorney General’s Office.

Furthermore, judges in Washington, DC do not have the power to get around mandatory periods of jail time that have been required by the DC legislators. As an example, if a person provides a breath sample upon their arrest and their breath sample comes out to be a .22, that person would be eligible for mandatory jail time.

If the person ultimately ends up being convicted of the DUI and the breath score is considered to be admissible in their case, then the judge would not have the legal authority to be able to spare that person the mandatory minimum amount of jail time even if the judge felt that jail time wasn’t appropriate.

The DC legislators have prohibited judges from imposing anything less than mandatory periods of jail time even if they feel that it’s not appropriate. That’s why for DC DUI defense attorneys, negotiating aggressively and challenging the evidence of the prosecutors is an essential first step in any DUI case even on first offenses.

Biggest Mistakes to Avoid After a First Time DUI in DC

One of the biggest mistakes to avoid for a first time DUI defendant is to assume that the prosecutors will not vigorously prosecute a first time offender. Even though at some other jurisdictions, other types of prosecutors are much more lenient with first time offense DUI, the prosecutor’s offices in Washington, DC aggressively charge and attempt to convict even first time DUI defendants.

That means that it is a mistake to believe that any lawyer with any level of experience handling DUIs can effectively represent your case. Even a first time DUI defendant in Washington DC needs a DUI defense lawyer who has extensive experience with the DC Superior Court and extensive experience dealing with the DC Attorney General’s Office so that they can be familiar with the procedures and possible defense options in a first time DC DUI case.

Building a Defense in First Time DC DUI Cases

When approaching a first time DUI charge, it’s important for a DC DUI lawyer to not be complacent in assuming that the case would be resolved in a favorable way. Prosecutors will always look to their ability to be able to prove a first time DUI offender guilty at trial. And so, a DC DUI lawyer needs to approach even a first offense case from the same perspective.

  • What is the evidence that can be used against a person?
  • Are there any possible legal challenges to be able to get certain evidence thrown out?
  • Is there sufficient evidence to prove that a person was actually in operation or physical control of a vehicle?
  • And what kind of evidence does the prosecutor have present in order to prove that a person was actually impaired by alcohol, drugs or medication or some combination of the three?

Looking at a first time DUI from that perspective can help challenge the evidence that’s usable against the person or challenge the admissibility of any evidence in order to be able to gain even a first offender enough leverage to be able to negotiate favorable results or proceed all the way to a trial to try and get an acquittal at a trial.

Evidence in DC 1st DUI Cases

As a defense attorney, the evidence that I look for starts off with the reason for the initial stop in traffic. Was a person stopped for something like a taillight being out? Or a technical violation that has no relevance for the manner in which the person was driving? That can sometimes be helpful in challenging the allegations that the person was impaired.

If a person was not committing any traffic violations that suggest impairment, then that can be helpful in challenging any additional evidence that might suggest impairment. We then look to any results of field sobriety tests or anything else that a prosecutor may claim is evidence of impairment, such as slurred speech, bloodshot or watery eyes or an alleged difficulty in standing up straight.

We want to take a look at whether or not there are any alternative reasons that a person may be exhibiting those symptoms not connected to alcohol impairment or drug impairment, such as medical conditions.

We also look at whether or not there were any toxicology results that we may need to challenge their credibility or reliability of. That can include challenging the maintenance record of any breath testing machines or challenging the manner in which a police officer collect the urine sample for alcohol or drug testing.