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DC OWI Charges

In addition to DUI and DWI charges, drivers in Washington, DC may face operating while intoxicated (OWI) charges as well. The following is more on what you should know regarding this charge, and how a DC DUI lawyer can help. Call and schedule a consultation today.

Operating While Impaired Charges

Operating While Impaired is nearly always charged as a lesser offense of driving under the influence in Washington, DC. This means that when a person is arrested and charged for driving under the influence, prosecutors will automatically charge the person with Operating While Impaired along with driving under the influence. Even though the two charges have the exact same legal standards, Operating While Impaired is considered to be a lower level offense compared to driving under the influence. It is sometimes referred to colloquially as a “wet reckless offense” in the sense that it applies only in impairment and driving impaired cases, but is lower in severity compared to driving under the influence.

A person cannot be convicted of both driving under the influence and Operating While Impaired. If a case were to proceed to trial, DC prosecutors would typically dismiss the Operating While Impaired charge before proceeding with a trial on a driving under the influence charge. This is because they cannot convict someone of both driving under the influence and Operating While Impaired. However, depending on the facts of the case and on a defendant’s history and specific circumstances, prosecutors are sometimes willing to dismiss driving under the influence charges in exchange for a plea agreement to an Operating While Impaired charge.

How Do These Charges Differ From DUI and DWI Charges?

OWI stands for Operating While Impaired. DUI stands for driving under the influence and DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. OWI is typically considered to be a lesser offense to driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated in the District of Columbia. The maximum penalties for Operating While Impaired are lower than the penalties for driving under the influence. Driving under the influence carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail, whereas Operating While Impaired carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail. Those are the main legal differences between driving under the influence and operating while impaired.

The legal standard for how to prove an Operating While Impaired charge in DC is exactly the same as driving under the influence. That means there is no legal difference between Operating While Impaired and driving under the influence besides the penalties. In an Operating While Impaired charge, the prosecutors still need to prove the defendant was operating or in control of the vehicle while they were impaired to an appreciable degree by alcohol, drugs, mediation, or any combination of the three. This means that Operating While Impaired is charged as a lower offense in every DUI case but does not actually have a legal distinction from driving under the influence as far as what a prosecutor will need to prove.

How are OWI Offenses Charged?

When law enforcement officers make an arrest, they typically make an arrest for DUI or driving under the influence and investigate as they would for those offenses rather than OWI. Even after an arrest, they may ask someone to take chemical testing or undergo chemical tests such as urine, breath, or blood tests.

The OWI charge typically comes later when prosecutors are making decisions on how they are going to charge someone. Sometimes they may charge someone with both DUI and OWI, however, it is important to remember that at a trial, a person cannot be convicted of both charges.

Therefore, if there is a trial on that matter, what a defense attorney will do is ask the judge to order the prosecutor to make an election as to what charge they are pursuing. The government is forced to choose whether they are pursuing a conviction or pursuing a charge of DUI or OWI at trial. Nine times out of ten, the government then chooses to pursue DUI and dismisses the OWI before trial.

How OWI Charges Are Treated

Prosecutors almost exclusively charge Operating While Impaired in conjunction with driving under the influence, which means the two are almost exclusively charged together. It is not common for a prosecutor to only charge with just Operating While Impaired. When a person is charged with Operating While Impaired along with a DUI, the prosecutors will proceed vigorously with those charges. Thus, it is important to have a Washington, DC DUI attorney who approaches the case just as vigorously.

Importance of Hiring An Attorney

It is absolutely worth it to get a lawyer for Operating While Impaired because it is still a criminal charge. Even though it is considered to be a less severe offense than driving under the influence, the two are typically charged together. It is important to consult with a lawyer if faced with an Operating While Impaired charge because it still carries a possible maximum 90 days in jail and could result in a criminal conviction on your record. As such, there can still be certain advantages to Operating While Impaired compared to driving under the influence for a person’s driving license or a person’s criminal records.

Having the assistance of a DC DUI lawyer for an OWI charge is important so you can understand exactly what you are facing and what your possible defenses are.

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