Drinking and driving laws in the District of Columbia (DC) state that a blood alcohol level (BAC) exceeding 0.08% is reason to be charged with a DUI (driving under the influence) offense. BAC for drivers under the age of 21 years is however 0.0% and for commercial drivers, 0.04%.
DC provides an implied consent law which means that all drivers must submit to a chemical test (breathalyzer or blood test). If the driver does not submit to these tests, they will automatically receive up to a 1-year suspension of their license and/or a fine. Because breathalyzer tests may be unreliable, it is recommended to have a blood test to avoid these penalties.
If a driver does take the chemical test and their blood alcohol level is found to be over the allowed limit, the following penalties apply in DC:
– First Offense – A fine between $300 and $1,000 and/or a maximum jail sentence of 90 days and/or a license suspension of up to 6 months.
– Second Offense – A fine between $1,000 and $5,000 and/or a maximum jail sentence of 1 year and/or a license suspension of up to 1 year.
– Third Offense – A fine between $2,000 and $10,000 and/or a maximum jail sentence of 1 year and/or a license suspension of up to 2 years.
Further DUI convictions could result in penalties such as permanent license suspension, additional fines and a maximum jail sentence.
Each case is decided upon it’s own individual circumstances as to how these penalties will be applied – whether the maximum sentence, fine or suspension will apply or if the court will show leniency.
An offender, especially if it is a first-time offense, may plead to a lower charge such as reckless driving if they plead guilty. The penalties associated with these charges are often less severe and may help avoid jail time.
It is recommended for all drivers charged with a DUI offense to seek legal representation to create a case to defend against the charge or simply to get advice on how to minimize the penalties and sentencing received by the court. For a list of top DUI attorneys in Washington DC, check out our home page.
Being convicted of a DUI charge can have severe consequences in the future over and above the penalties mentioned above. A conviction will result in a criminal record which will affect a person’s ability to be employed, rent property, apply for credit or in any event where a criminal record may be checked.
Although there are rare cases where the court will expunge a DUI conviction from a criminal record, it is a complex and difficult process that often requires an appeal. Expunging does not result in the removal of the conviction from a criminal record, but rather involves the sealing of the record from public view.
The best way to avoid these penalties is not to drink and drive at all. Even one drink may be enough to exceed the legislated blood alcohol level in the District of Columbia.