DC DUI Penalties

DUI arrests in DC typically give rise to two separate cases. First, a criminal case that is prosecuted in the District of Columbia’s DUI courts and then, an administrative DC driver’s license hearing, which can result in the suspension of your driving privileges by the DC Department of Motor Vehicles. Given the two different authorities at work, there is a range of the types of penalties that apply to any DC DUI case. To completely understand the potential penalties and risks that you face, you should consult with a dedicated DC DUI lawyer today. For a general review of the penalties in these two different jurisdictions, please refer to this page.

For a first-time DUI charge with a low blood alcohol content (BAC) level, your DC DUI attorney may be able to arrange a deferred sentencing resolution. That usually means that you if complete a substance class or alcohol education class, sometimes called a Traffic Alcohol Program, as well as certain other conditions, you may be able to avoid a conviction.

Sentencing Process

Once the person is found guilty of driving under the influence and proceeds to sentencing, the judge does not have the ability to reduce the charges, dismiss the case, or seal the record. Those arrangements are worked out between the prosecutors and defense lawyers. At sentencing on first offense DUI cases, many judges recognize that jail time is not necessary for people who have not previously been in trouble. As long as the judges have discretion to not give a person jail time, they may agree to exercise that discretion and not send the person to jail.

There are some situations in DC law where the judge does not have the discretion to impose no jail time. For example, if someone has a first offense DUI with a blood alcohol content of 0.2 or higher, the judge must give the person at least ten days of jail time. The judge cannot give less than ten days because DC law does not allow them to do that.

In some situations, the judge’s discretion to be lenient is limited. However, outside of those situations, depending on a person’s background efforts to address any issues of alcohol or drugs they may have, judges try to give people the benefit of the doubt and minimize to the greatest extent possible, any penalties the person faces.

Penalties for Conviction

1st Conviction 2nd Conviction 3rd Conviction or More
Fines and Jail Up to 180 days in jail. $1,000 fine. Mandatory 10 days in jail up to one year. $2,500-$5,000 fine. Mandatory 15 days in jail up to one year. $2,500-$10,000 fine.
Penalties based on BAC If BAC is at least .2 but less than .25, mandatory sentence of 10 days in jail. If BAC is above .25, mandatory 15 days in jail. If BAC is at least .2 but less than .25, additional mandatory 15 days in jail. If BAC is above .25, additional mandatory 20 days in jail. If BAC is at least .2 but less than .25, additional mandatory 20 days in jail. If BAC is above .25, additional mandatory 25 days in jail.
Additional penalties If transporting a person 17 years of age or younger at time, additional minimum fine of $500 – $1,000 and 5 days in jail per minor.

First offense:

  • Ineligibility for deferred sentencing agreement or reduced charges
  • Loss of license for one year

Alcohol diversion and prevention programs and assessment and treatment for alcohol or drug dependence can be court-ordered requirements for those convicted of DUI offenses in Washington, DC.

Aggravated Offenses

There is no such thing as a felony DUI offense under DC law. Felonies in DC are defined as any criminal charge where the maximum possible penalty a person could get is more than one year of prison time. For example, if a person is charged and convicted of robbery, the maximum possible sentence the judge could give the person in that situation is no more than 15 years of prison time.

That does not necessarily mean a person would be sentenced to 15 years of prison time if they are convicted of robbery. The judge cannot go higher than 15 years. Because 15 years is greater than one year, robbery is considered a felony. Under DC law, someone with a first offense DUI faces a maximum possible penalty of 180 days of jail, making it a misdemeanor. Second and subsequent DUI offenses, including any previous DUIs in DC or in any other jurisdiction, carry a maximum penalty of exactly one year of jail time.

Because the maximum penalty for a second or seventh offense is one year, all DUIs in DC are considered to be misdemeanors. The main difference between a second offense, a third offense, and higher is the statutory mandatory minimum penalty a person faces. Those minimum penalties can range from a mandatory minimum 10 days of jail time on a second offense and increase from there with each subsequent DUI. At no point does anyone ever face more than one year of jail time for a DUI. A person never faces a maximum penalty more than one year. If a maximum penalty is one year or less, those charges are always considered to be misdemeanors.

Benefits of a Lawyer

Though the terms of most DUI convictions are clearly spelled out above, there are many factors that can come into play in any DUI case and that result in additional penalties. The fall-out from such convictions, or even charges, also extends well beyond court-ordered sanctions or penalties. A number of DUI defendants run the risk of losing their job due to the loss of a professional license or the black mark such charges leave on a background check.

This can put not only the defendant at risk of being unable to support themselves, but their family members and loved ones as well. Do not face these risks and potentially life-altering penalties on your own. Contact an experienced DC DUI attorney to avoid penalties today.