Third DUI Defense Strategy

The penalties for a third offense DUI are quite higher than the penalties for a first offense DUI. The elements of proving the offense are exactly the same with the exception of one major difference, which is that the prosecutors need to prove that a person has a prior DUI offense or offenses.

The main two elements of driving under the influence, which are operational control of the vehicle and appreciable impairment by alcohol or drugs, medication, or any combination of the three, remain the same. Therefore, the defenses remain virtually the same for those elements as they would for a first offense DUI.

However, third offense DUI attorneys can challenge the ability of the prosecutors to prove that their client has prior DUI charges. This can sometimes be a compelling argument because different states will often have different definitions of what it means to be convicted or found guilty of a DUI offense. If a state has different DUI requirement, those may not easily translate to what DC defines as a prior DUI conviction.

The Importance of Evidence for Multiple Drunk Driving Charges

In defending a third offense DUI cases, many of the factors are the same as in first offense cases. This includes the reasons why police first came into contact with the driver, any evidence of field sobriety tests that were conducted, any problems or mistakes that may have been committed by police officers in conducting those field sobriety tests, errors in conducting the breath or urine tests, and overall inconsistencies or errors that could question the reliability of police officer testimony.

Those factors all remain the same whether defending a first, second, or third offense DUI. In determining how a person can be treated as a repeat offender under Washington, DC DUI law, attorneys look to the definition of similar statutes in other states where a person may have had interaction with law enforcement because of an alcohol driving-related offense.

They look into the specificity of the D.C. prosecutor’s description of that prior offense and whether the prosecutors filed the proper paperwork to allow a judge to treat a defendant as a repeat offender. Only if a prosecutor follows those required procedures can he or she meet the necessary burden of having a defendant get treated as a third DUI offender under D.C. law.

Differences in Defense Strategies for Third-Time DUI Charges

The essential elements of a third offense DUI are exactly the same as a first offense DUI. However, one of the main differences in defending a third offense DUI is that a person facing a third offense DUI would be eligible to have his or her trial before a jury as opposed to a judge. When a person is facing criminal charges, he or she is eligible for a trial before a jury if the maximum possible penalty for any individual charge is more than 180 days in jail. The person is also eligible for a jury trial if facing more than a total of two years of jail time among all charges.

On a first offense DUI, a person facing a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail is not eligible to have a trial before a jury; the person is only eligible to have a trial before a judge. A third offense DUI faces a maximum penalty of up to one year of jail time. For more than 180 days in jail, a person facing a third offense DUI would be eligible to have a trial before a jury.

Defense strategies for having a third DUI trial before juries can be very different from trials before judges. Their procedures can be different, the arguments can sometimes be different, and the trials can have different features. If a person is facing a third offense DUI, it is important to have a DUI lawyer who has experience conducting jury trials and understands the process of jury selection and making arguments before juries as opposed to a lawyer only experienced with trying cases before judges.

Consult an Attorney to Discuss Third DUI Defense Strategies

When researching a lawyer to represent you in a third offense DUI case, the most important thing to look for is extensive local experience in DC Superior Court and in specifically handling repeat offender DUI cases. The procedures and the possible challenges in DUIs are very different than they are in other types of DC criminal cases. Because of the significantly higher penalties that defendants face for third offense DUIs, it’s important to look very, very closely at any possible challenges to the following factors:

  • The initial stop of a suspect
  • The manner in which police officers conduct their investigation
  • The manner in which they conduct any field sobriety testing
  • The way that police officers gather any toxicology evidence such as a urine sample or a breath sample

Looking very closely through any possible evidence is absolutely essential in a third offense DUI because of the severe possible penalties that a person would face upon conviction. Knowledge of the best way to handle and challenge evidence in a DUI case is the most important thing that a person can look for. Having extensive experience dealing with the DC Attorney General’s Office, being in front of the DC judges and understanding the most recent laws relating to DC DUIs can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful challenge to your case.