How DC DUI Charges Are Treated in Court

Over the past several years, DC has drastically increased the possible penalties that a person could face for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any combination of the two. Additionally, DC prosecutors have started treating first-offense DUIs much more harshly. Therefore, if you are ever charged with driving under the influence, you need to contact a DC DUI attorney who is experienced with the treatment of DUI defendants in court.

It used to be the case that people who have never been arrested for driving under the influence had the option to complete an alcohol program and then have their charges dismissed. Over time, however, even first-offense DUIs have started being treated more harshly. More and more DUI defendants experience harsher treatment in court, even when they have no prior record. It is important not to underestimate the seriousness of being charged with driving under the influence.

Many people looking for representation assume that because they have never been in trouble before, their DUI case will automatically be dismissed. That is not always the case anymore. Repeat DUI offenses are treated even more harshly. Mandatory jail time can become a significant burden on a defendant’s ability to be able to keep their job, keep their driver’s license, and maintain their freedom.

Permanent Penalties

DUI charges can be intimidating because many people do not realize how seriously these cases are handled by prosecutors in Washington, DC. Many people get the impression through media, television, and movies that when they are pulled over for a DUI, it is only a traffic infraction. Where they pay a fine and the charges are dismissed relatively easily. People are surprised to find out how serious the DUI charge penalties can be and how aggressively DUI charge cases are prosecuted.

Clients are surprised that prosecutors in Washington, DC are eager to find ways to get as many convictions as possible for anyone facing DUI charges. It is most surprising for many people that they are treated seriously, even for people who were never arrested for DUI charges. People face a permanent criminal record that cannot be expunged if convicted and cannot be sealed. The criminal record could have an impact on a person’s employment opportunities and could come up in background checks. People who are not US citizens could face immigration consequences. The number and breadth of available penalties in DUI cases can make them very intimidating.

Relation to Other Crimes

In DC, many types of violent crimes are at all-time lows right now compared to the crime levels of Washington, DC in the ’80s, the ’90s, and even the 2000s. Violent crime is not nearly the problem that it once was in the District of Columbia. As a result, prosecutors and police are beginning to focus their attention elsewhere. Deaths, accidents, and injuries caused by driving under the influence have not decreased compared to other types of violent crimes. Resources that were once focused violent crime are now turning to the treatment of DUI defendants to court.

Impact of Previous Convictions

A person who has previously been convicted of driving under the influence, either in DC or in any other state in the country and is arrested for a second or subsequent DUI charge in D.C., faces higher penalties than they would for a first-offense DUI.

In DC, the prosecutors look back 15 years to see if a person has been found guilty of another driving under the influence charge. They look in every other state in the country. With a prior conviction, possible jail time increases from 180 days up to one year of maximum jail time.

The minimum amount of jail time also increases. On most first-offense DUIs, there is no minimum jail time. But if a person has been found guilty of driving under the influence in the past 15 years anywhere else, the minimum amount of jail time goes up to 10 days. That means that even if the judge wanted to, because a person did alcohol classes, had a job or children, the judge does not have the legal option to go lower than 10 days of jail.

Minimum jail time and other factors lead to a harsh treatment of DUI defendants in court. If you have been charged with a DUI for the first time or otherwise, contact an experienced and dedicated DUI attorney.