DC Third Offense DUI Penalties 

When a person is arrested and charged as a third time DUI offender in Washington, DC, their case is heard in the same courthouse as all other DUI cases: the District of Columbia Superior Courthouse in Washington, DC. When it comes to sentencing, DC third offense DUI penalties can be quite severe. Therefore, it is essential to work with a skilled and local lawyer in order to discuss building a defense and mitigating the damages.

Result of a Conviction

A person facing a third offense DUI  charges will be eligible for a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 days of jail time if convicted and a possible maximum sentence of one year of jail time if convicted. The fines range from $2,500 at a minimum up to $10,000 at a maximum.

Suspended Fines

There is no mandatory minimum fine, which means that while a judge will be required to impose a fine of no less than $2,500, the judge could suspend any portion of that fine. This means that a judge could not require a person to pay the entirety of the fine unless that defendant violates some condition of probation. It is called a suspended fine as opposed to a mandatory fine.

A person convicted of a third offense DUI will also be required to pay a Victim of Violent Crimes fund assessment, which can be thought of as a court cost assessment. The minimum victim’s fund assessment is $50; the possible maximum is $250.

Mandatory Minimum Jail Time

Because of the DC laws that require mandatory minimum levels of jail time on third offense DUIs, in most situations, prosecutors give a person charged with a third offense DUI a certain amount of jail time because it is required under DC law.

Prosecutors do have discretion as to whether to charge someone as a third offense DUI defendant as opposed to a second or a first offense DUI defendant. In order to negotiate the DC third offense DUI penalties, an attorney can advocate for charging decisions that can minimize the chances of their client being exposed to those higher levels of mandatory minimum jail sentences.

Aggravating Factors

When prosecutors determine whether a person is facing an increased penalty as a third offender, the prosecutor looks back 15 years prior from a person’s third offense DUI. If the defendant was on any kind of probation, was found guilty, was serving jail time, or was on some other kind of papers for another DUI within the last 15 years, the offense would be considered a prior offense for repeat enhancements under D.C. rules.

Time Period Between Offenses

The court and the prosecutors would look back 15 years. The time period in between each DUI, however, does not matter. If any previous DUI was within 15 years of a person’s finding of guilt of DUI in D.C., it would be considered a prior offense to determine if a person would be facing repeat enhancement as a third-time offender.

Greater than 15 Years

As an example, a person was arrested and convicted of a DUI charge in 1985 and arrested and convicted again for another DUI charge in 1990, and for the next 15 years, has no DUI offenses. If that person is arrested in 2017 for a DUI offense, legally they can be charged as a first offender under the DC DUI statutes. That does not necessarily mean that the person is looking at no jail time. The prosecutors do not ignore the prior DUIs; it only means that the minimum and maximum penalties the person faces are the same as a first offender DUI. That is a minimum of zero days in jail and a maximum of 180 days in jail.

Less Than 15 Years

When a prior DUI is within the past 15 years; having multiple DUIs close in time to each other can give a prosecutor and a judge a higher level of concern about any risks the person poses to the community. For example, when a person is convicted of first and second offense DUIs and is arrested again on a third offense DUI within a span of just a few years, a prosecutor might be more aggressive about seeking longer periods of jail time. Because the person accumulated three DUIs back-to-back, only a lengthy amount of jail time can protect the community.

Judges may also approach such a case in a more punitive way compared to a person who picked up prior DUIs in their youth and spent the next 10 or 12 or 14 years with a completely clean criminal record. An argument can be made that someone in that situation should not be treated in the same manner as a person who may have multiple DUIs within a short period of time.

Diversion Programs

The official policy of the DC Attorney General’s Office is that a person with any number of prior driving under the influence offenses is not eligible for diversion programs. Diversion programs on driving under the influence cases are officially limited to a narrow subset of first offender DUI defendants who fit certain criteria, such as when a person has no prior DUI arrest either in D.C. or any other jurisdiction. As a general matter, people facing second, third, or subsequent DUIs are not eligible for more favorable negotiated agreements that can result in the charges being dismissed.


For third offense DUIs, prosecutors rarely would agree to no jail time and only probation recommendations. Under D.C. law a person convicted of a third offense DUI would be required to serve at least 15 days of jail time.

As a result, when a person is facing that mandatory minimum jail time, prosecutors are hesitant to go lower than that but are often willing to agree to a combination of jail time and probation as opposed to recommendations for lengthy periods of only jail time.

Instead of a person serving six months or one year of straight jail time for a third offense DUI, a prosecutor may agree to make a recommendation for a one-year sentence that would be suspended for all but the mandatory minimum of 15 days with the remaining jail time serving as a possible penalty. If a person then violates a probationary period, that person would serve the remaining jail time.

Potential Requirements

Probation requirements could include alcohol classes, an ignition interlock installed on the car, community service, and more. Once the person successfully completed that probation requirement, the person would not serve his or her remaining suspended jail sentence. If the person violated the probation by getting rearrested or not completing a condition, they may face a revocation of probation in which case the judge could sentence them to the remainder of the one-year jail sentence that was originally imposed.

Role of an Attorney

DC Third offense DUI penalties can be overwhelming. Having to pay exorbitant fines and worry about serving jail time, can be a stressful experience. Working with a tenacious DUI lawyer can help an individual alleviate that stress. If you have been charged with a third offense DUI, get in contact with a lawyer who is familiar with DC DUI policies and will use that knowledge to advocate for you.