Washington DC DUI Lawyer

The District of Columbia has three separate charges related to “drunk driving”, or driving after consuming other inebriating substances: Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Driving Under the Influence (DUI), and Operating While Impaired (OWI). En Español.

To be charged with a DWI, a driver must either be operating or in physical control of a motor vehicle and have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater. Because a person only has to be “in physical control” of a motor vehicle, a person could be charged with DWI, even though that person was simply sitting in a parked car with the ignition on. A police officer can test a person’s blood alcohol concentration by conducting two chemical tests (breath, urine, blood, or a combination of two different types of tests) on a suspected drunk driver. A person is considered “per se” intoxicated if their BAC is .08 or above. This means that you can be charged with and convicted of DWI even though your actual driving was not affected by your alcohol consumption.


The government is not required to prove that the person’s driving was actually impaired in order to prove you are guilty of DWI. Due to Washington, DC’s implied consent law, a driver who is suspected of “drunk driving” and who refuses to take any chemical tests may be still be charged with a crime and may have their license revoked for up to one year.

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DUI in Washington, DC

Washington DC DUI Lawyer

Washington, DC takes an extremely aggressive stance toward all driving under the influence/driving while intoxicated (“DUI”) violations.

The DC DUI statute mandates that the Superior Court for the District of Columbia sentence drivers whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels measures above 0.20 percent to mandatory minimum jail sentences.

Another component of the region’s zero tolerance enforcement focuses on drivers who are under the age of 21, and drivers who are holders of commercial driver’s licenses.

Any driver can be charged with and convicted of DUI if the government can prove their ability to drive was impaired by drugs or alcohol. Below, is a list of possible penalties for DUI convictions in DC. Please note that serious, mandatory minimum jail sentences will be enforced in such cases. An experienced DC DUI lawyer will know how best to combat such charges and can provide answers regarding specific questions.

DUI First Offense – Maximum $1,000 fine, up to 90 days in jail; license suspension of six months with enhanced minimum jail sentences [§ 50-2206.13 (a)]:

  • BAC of 0.20 or higher – mandatory minimum of 10 days;
  • BAC of 0.25 or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 15 days (which cannot be suspended);
  • BAC of 0.30 or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 20 days (which cannot be suspended);
  • A 15-day mandatory minimum jail sentence for any detectable level of a schedule I drug(e.g. PCP, Cocaine, Methadone).

DUI Second Offense (within 15 years) – $2,500-$5,000 fine, minimum 10 days to one year in jail and/or both fines and jail sentence, license suspension of one year, with enhanced minimum jail sentences [§ 50-2206.13 (b)]:

  • BAC of 0.20 or higher – mandatory minimum of 15 days;
  • BAC of 0.25 or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 20 days (which cannot be suspended);
  • BAC of 0.30 or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 25 days (which cannot be suspended);
  • A 20-day mandatory minimum jail sentence for any detectable level of a schedule I drug(e.g. PCP, Cocaine, Methadone).

DUI Third Offense (within 15 years) –$2,500-$10,000 fine, 15 days to one year in jail (or both) license suspension of one year, with enhanced minimum jail sentences [§ 50-2206.13 (c) & (d)]:

  • BAC of 0.20 or higher – mandatory minimum of 15 days;
  • BAC of 0.25 or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 20 days (which cannot be suspended);
  • BAC of 0.30 or higher – additional mandatory minimum of 25 days (which cannot be suspended);
  • A 20-day mandatory minimum jail sentence for any detectable amount of drugs.

DUI Fourth or subsequent offense (within 15 years) – An additional 30-day mandatory minimum jail sentence added to the appropriate third offense minimum. Once a person reaches four or more DUI convictions over a 15 year period or incur other civil liability penalties which indicate to the DC Department of Motor Vehicles that they hold no regard for DUI laws, the DMV can revoke their driver’s license indefinitely.

There are other jail time enhancements that could be added to the original DUI penalty if minors were in the vehicle when the person was stopped, if they cause an accident, or if anyone is seriously injured or killed as a result of your drunk driving.

DUI Criminal Process in DC

It all begins with the traffic stop. Traffic stops can occur when a police officer pulls you over because your driving indicates there is a problem, or at a pre-arranged police DUI Checkpoint.  In either event; the officer will be looking for obvious signs of intoxication. If the officer suspects you might be under the influence, he or she will likely administer a series of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST).

If a person fails one or more of these tests, this will likely be used as probable cause to place them under arrest for suspicion of DUI. Once they are arrested, they will be asked to undergo a chemical breath or blood test to determine their level of intoxication. Refusal to provide a breath or blood sample can lead to an automatic suspension of their license.

However, it is important to realize that there are many flaws inherent in the SFST and chemical testing systems. A knowledgeable DUI lawyer can challenge the results of your SFSTs and other evidence amassed by police and prosecutors. If they are successful, any or all evidence against someone may be ruled inadmissible at trial, putting them in the best position for an acquittal or dismissal of their charges.

DUI Blood and Breath Tests

At the police station, a person will most likely undergo a breathalyzer test.  But there are some circumstances – especially if they are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs, or if they have been taken to the hospital due to injury – where they will instead be given a blood test.  Urine tests can also be administered, though such tests are not typically used in the District of Columbia.

All things being equal, the data produced by a chemical test is strong evidence in court. There are specific rules, however, that must be followed when the tests are conducted as well as regulations that govern the transport and storage of the samples by the police and the forensic lab that conducts the test, including both labs located in-house and private labs which contract with law enforcement agencies. If any of errors or flaws occurred in this tightly regulated system, the evidence against someone can be called into question by their attorney prior and at their trial.

Drivers suspected of DUI must submit to chemical tests according to DC’s “Implied Consent” law [§ 50-1904.02(a)]. Nonetheless, a driver may still refuse to submit to such tests but they must also be aware of the potential consequences of their refusal, including the immediate suspension of their driver’s license for twelve months. [§ 50-1905]

DWI in Washington, DC

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a criminal charge that carries consequences which reach beyond the DMV. If you have been charged with DWI in Washington, DC, you should consider contacting a Washington, DC DWI lawyer who will zealously protect your rights.

A first-time DC DWI offender can face a maximum $1,000 fine and/or a maximum sentence of 180 days’  incarceration.  A driver with a BAC of .20-.25 can be imprisoned for a mandatory minimum of 10 days. If a driver’s BAC is .25-.30, he or she faces a mandatory minimum of 15 days of incarceration. If the driver’s BAC is above .30, he or she faces a mandatory minimum of 20 days of incarceration. DC Criminal Code Section 50-1905.

In addition to the court-ordered fines and jail sentences, a DWI conviction can lead to the revocation of a person’s driver’s license, increased auto insurance premiums, decreased credit ratings, travel restrictions, and various other costs. For additional information related to DWI in DC, please visit the following page.

Prior to a DC DUI/DWI Trial

An attorney will conduct their own investigation into the circumstances of their defendant’s traffic stop and subsequent arrest to unearth any weaknesses or improprieties in the prosecution’s case. Such issues can be used as grounds for dismissal. Barring that option, the attorney can also work to negotiate a plea agreement to mitigate any potential penalties someone may face.

Probation can be achieved under the right circumstances. A person may still have to pay fines, attend DUI courses or alcohol and/or drug treatment programs, perform community service, have your license suspended or restricted, and face any other discretionary penalties handed down by the judge or imposed by the prosecutor. If they plead out to OWI, it will go on their record and constitutes a prior offense if they are ever convicted of another alcohol-related driving offense.

DC DUI and Ignition Interlock Program

For drivers convicted of DUI and who have had their licenses revoked, it is sometimes possible to qualify for an Ignition Interlock Program (IIP). [§ 50-2201.05a] The program allows them to drive their car if an ignition interlock device is installed in their vehicle. The DMV determines whether you qualify for the program, which must be approved by the court, and requires drivers to pay the cost of the installation of the devices as well as any necessary maintenance or upkeep.

The DC DMV also manages the process for driver’s license reinstatement at the end of all revocation periods, keeps track of driver demerit points, and makes decisions whether to revoke or suspend drivers’ licenses based on the accumulated demerit points.

An ignition interlock device is a piece of equipment that is installed in a person’s car and prevents their car from starting until they blow into an attached portable breath test. If the test indicates  0.0, then the ignition interlock will not activate and will allow them to start the car. If they have alcohol in their breath, it will prevent their car from starting until they do not have any alcohol in their breath. Typically, those ignition interlocks are not used in Washington D.C.

Long-Term Ramifications of a DUI Conviction

With a DUI conviction comes a criminal record. This can affect a person’s professional, personal, and, if applicable, academic life. Criminal records also often show up on credit reports, which means that applications for bank loans, rental agreements, car purchases and similar financial transactions may be difficult, if not impossible. If they do qualify for the loan, banks and credit card companies often charge higher rates of interest.

Many employers are likely to hold such a conviction against them and may fire them. In addition, if they are in the process of applying for a new position, the employer might refuse to hire them. DUI convictions can also endanger security clearances required for many jobs in the Washington, DC region.

If the driver is still in high school, they might not be able to attend the college of their choice. If they are a college student, they could be subject to administrative discipline, including suspension, expulsion or the termination of certain student loans, grants, and scholarships.

Finally, most car insurance companies take a critical view of those convicted of DUI. Monthly rates may skyrocket, or they may lose coverage completely. If they drive a company car, they will likely either lose their coverage or have to pay for the increased premium out of their own pocket.

OWI In Washington, DC

A person may also be charged with Operating While Impaired (OWI) in Washington, DC. According to DC’s OWI law, a person must not operate or be in physical control of any vehicle in the District while that person’s ability to operate or be in physical control of a vehicle is impaired by the consumption of alcohol or any drug or any combination thereof. A person convicted of this crime for the first time may be fined $500 or incarcerated for not more than 90 days, or both. See DC Criminal Code Section 50-2206.15.

The Benefits of Experienced Legal Representation

Washington DC DUI LawyerWe can provide a comprehensive overview of the legal standards related to DWI, DUI and OWI charges, as well as more information on the DMV hearings that accompany the criminal charges. We can also assist you in other legal matters related to alcohol charges, such as underage drinking and fake ID charges.  Contact our Washington, DC offices and see how our expertise in this area of the law can work to protect your future.

We are devoted to represent, defend, and assist you in resolving any issues pertaining to DWI, DUI, and OWI charges with the least amount of cost and delay to you. Please visit or contact our attorneys in Washington, DC for free consultation and information.

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Title: I was facing a DUI in DC and I wanted to hire a very good attorney...

I was facing a DUI in DC and I wanted to hire a very good attorney to help me fight this. My friend recommended David Benowitz, and he said that Dave is the "best" in DC. I am a lawyer myself, so I knew what a solid attorney looked like. I did consult with other attorneys as well, but after 10 minutes of speaking to Dave, I knew he was the guy I could trust. We fought the case for about a year, and I got an amazing deal thanks to Dave. I only got 3 months unsupervised probation, and paid a $100.00 fine. Dave was able to advocate on my behalf, and really saved me. It would have been significantly worse without him. He did an amazing job. Besides being a great professional, he is a good person and an amazing listener.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 / 5 stars