A DUI charge – driving under the influence – is a serious offense anywhere in the United States. This was emphasized in July 2012 when Washington, DC passed the Comprehensive Impaired Driving Act, which set tougher and broader penalties for driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
These stricter laws place harsher fines on first-time offenders and establish longer mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders.
The new laws also include standards for taxis and limousines, as well as truck and bus drivers. In addition, the law reinstated the breath-test program, which had been previously suspended in DC in 2011 due to faulty equipment.
At a DUI trial, the driver has the right to challenge the arresting officer’s charges. They might declare that a bad performance on a field sobriety test was due to the officer’s confusing instructions or that the driver’s eyes were bloodshot due to contact lenses, not alcohol. Witnesses may be called to challenge the actions of the police.
Having the knowledge of a seasoned DUI attorney on your side is essential for minimizing the long-term consequences this charge can have on your future. Call our offices today for a free consultation.
DC DUI laws have continued to evolve and become stricter because there are about 12,000 DUI accidents that occur each year and fatal auto crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs occur about every half hour.
DC DUI laws also reflect the fact that a DUI is not a traffic ticket, but a criminal offense for which a person can receive jail time. These new laws emphasize the warning: Do not drive drunk in DC.
If a driver is arrested for a DUI in DC, they can be assessed 12 points on their driver’s license, which automatically suspends their driving privileges for six months. For a DUI conviction, the first such offense means a maximum fine of $1,000 and a possible 180 days in jail.
If the person is charged with a second DUI offense within 15 years of the first one, the fine may be between $2,500 and $5,000 and the jail term will be no less than 10 days and potentially as long as one year. Subsequent offenses bring higher fines and longer mandatory incarceration periods. A person may also lose their license and be compelled to perform community service for a specified period.
To stop a motorist for a DUI, the officer must have probable cause to believe the driver has committed a traffic infraction. This includes driving too fast, failure to obey stop signs, weaving in and out of traffic, or any other behavior that deviates from normal, safe driving patterns.
A driver might initially be cited for a traffic violation, such as not stopping for a red light, which then leads to a DUI. Once the motorist has pulled over, the officer will look for slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, or other basic signs of being under the influence.
To be charged with DUI in DC, the driver must be “appreciably impaired” by a drug, medication or a combination of one or more of these substances. The officer must establish proof that the driver is impaired. The driver might be asked to take a field sobriety test.
These tests are not mandatory, but refusal might also contribute to an arrest. The driver might be asked to stand on one leg or walk down a straight line, turn, and walk back. The officer is looking for loss of balance or other signs of difficulty.
If the DC officer decides from conversation and/or field sobriety tests that the driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs, the driver will be arrested and escorted to the police station. A blood, urine, or breath sample will be taken for a chemical test. Refusal to participate in the chemical test may be considered by the prosecutor as evidence of guilt. This refusal can lead to an immediate one-year suspension of the person’s driver’s license.
In any case concerning a DUI charge, the arresting officer must prove:
1. The person being charged actually was operating the vehicle. Therefore, an arrest made while the person was sitting in an idle car at the side of the road may be debatable.
2. The officer must also prove that the driver was impaired to some degree by alcohol, medication, or drugs.
As the DUI standards in Washington, DC continue to evolve, it is important that all drivers understand how the laws will affect their lives. Thus, if a person is unsure of the new laws or does not understand how they apply to them, they should contact a Washington, DC DUI lawyer immediately.
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