The DC Comprehensive Impaired Driving Act of 2012 essentially doubled the minimum sentences applicable to all drinking and driving statutes imposing and enforcing the toughest penalties compared with most other jurisdictions.
Specifically, the statutory language states: no person shall operate or be in physical control of any vehicle in the District:
- When the person’s alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of testing is 0.08 grams or more either per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath or is 0.10 grams or more per 100 milliliters of urine;
- While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug or any combination thereof; or If under 21 years of age;
- When the person’s blood, breath, or urine contains any measurable amount of alcohol.
Accordingly, in Washington DC you can be technically charged with a DC DWI or DC DUI if you are operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of any measurable amount of alcohol or drugs.
BLOOD ALCOHOL CONCENTRATION (BAC)/DUI/DWI
A driver’s blood alcohol concentration or BAC can be measured by testing the driver’s blood, breath, or urine.
A BAC of 0.08 or more will most likely result in a DWI (driving while intoxicated) charge, the most severe, and generally referred to as “per se” intoxication.
The BAC below 0.08 will result in a DUI (driving under the influence) charge, a lower included offense. Your physical appearance such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, performance on field sobriety tests — all will be considered as well as chemical tests.
Intoxicated is defined as either having an alcohol concentration of:
- 0.08 grams or more per 100 milliliters of the person’s blood or
- per 210 liters of the person’s breath, or
- 0.10 grams or more per 100 milliliters of the person’s urine; or
- Having any measurable amount of alcohol in the person’s blood/urine/breath if the person is under 21 years of age.
Generally at the scene the Officer will rely upon both the physical attributes as well as the reading of the breathalyzer machine. Given the severity of the mandatory minimum sentences and the general unreliability of breathalyzer machines, blood and urine tests are now more prevalent.
The first time penalties for DC DWI/DUI conviction are fines of no more than $1000 and a maximum prison term of no more than 180 days.
Significantly though, if the person’s BAC upon arrest was between 0.20-0.25, there is a mandatory 10 days jail time and if the BAC was between 0.25-0.30 there is a 15 days mandatory jail time and over 0.30 — 20 days of jail time – all mandatory.
OPERATING WHILE IMPAIRED
In the District, there is also a third or the least significant drinking and driving offense that is categorized as “Operating While Impaired” (OWI).
Impaired is defined as having person’s ability to operate or to be in physical control of a vehicle visibly compromised due to consumption of alcohol or drugs.
Specifically the statute outlines that: No person shall, while the person’s ability to operate a vehicle is impaired by the consumption of intoxicating liquor, operate or be in physical control of any vehicle in the District.
Conviction under this provision, for the first time offense, carries a fine $500/90 days.
Incidentally, BAC of 0.05 grams or less establish a rebuttable presumption that the individual is not under the influence of an intoxicating liquor and BAC above that level shall constitute a prima facie proof of intoxication.
Moreover, in addition to severe criminal penalties, there are administrative DC DMV consequences to a drinking and driving arrest.
There are enhanced penalties if transporting a minor under while impaired that is:
- $500-$1000 fines per minor; and
- Mandatory minimum sentence of five days per minor if the minor is property retrained and 10 days if unrestrained.
PRELIMINARY BREATH TEST
If the are reasonable grounds to believe a person was operating a vehicle under influence or the person’s ability was impaired then the law enforcement officer may without making an arrest:
- Request the driver to submit to a preliminary breath test;
- The testing in voluntary and it designed to aid the officer in determining whether the alcohol levels justify an arrest;
- The results of the breathalyzer test may not be used in any future prosecution.
CHEMICAL TEST AFTER ARREST
Although submitting to a breathalyzer test is voluntary prior to an arrest and along with the field sobriety test is designed to aid the officer as to whether an arrest is legally justified; post arrest, the statute requires the law enforcement to collect two specimens of chemical testing drawn from blood, breath or urine.
The chemical test results would be admissible and would serve as compelling evidence of intoxication and as described above penalties ration and correlate with the BAC levels proven.
REFUSAL TO SUBMIT TO CHEMICAL TEST
In Washington DC, a refusal to submit to chemical tests upon the arresting Officer’s request will result in an automatic DMV license suspension and also might limit the plea bargaining process and increases the underlying penalties.
Specifically, the officer can put in motion via sworn report that the driving privileges should be suspended if there is reasonable grounds to believe the operator:
- Has been driving or
- Was in actual control of a motor vehicle upon the public street or highway and
- While the person’s alcohol concentration is 0.08 or while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug or any combination thereof, or
- While the person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by the consumption of intoxicating liquor; and
- Such person, having been placed under arrest, REFUSED to submit to the two chemical tests after having been informed of the consequences of such refusal.
Revocation of the driving privileges due to refusal would be:
- For a a period of 12 months; and
- If the person is without a license, then request to issue license would be be delayed for a period of 12 months after the date of the alleged violation.
Moreover, refusal to submit if have a prior alcohol related prior conviction would create a rebuttable presumption of intoxication.
DMV REVOCATION HEARING
In order to avoid an automatic suspension of the driving privileges then, if a DC resident, a revocation hearing shall be requested in writing and within 10 days, and within 15 days if a non resident.
During the revocation hearing, the hearing examiner will determine:
- Whether there was a reasonable grounds to believe the operator of the vehicle was intoxicated or impaired,
- Whether refusal to submit to chemical testing after arrest was knowing and voluntary and after being informed of the consequences for refusal.
It is important to note that all alcohol related arrests would result in an automatic suspension of the driving privileges if a hearing is not requested in a timely manner.
The hearing examiner is mandated to suspend the driving privileges for a period of 12 months if there is a refusal to chemical testing.
However, in cases where there is submission to chemical testing, the imposition of a suspension period is not mandatory and generally varies depending on the facts and circumstances of the individual case.
LEAVING AFTER COLLIDING
If a moving vehicle comes in contact with another vehicle, property, or other person or animal — there is a legal duty and requirement to stop and assist and to provide and share insurance and other identifying information.
Specifically, the Statute requires a vehicle that comes in contact with another vehicle or is otherwise involved in an accident to stop the vehicle immediately and:
- If there is injury to anyone to call for assistance/ambulance and to remain on the scene of the accident and render aid until such time that the police is at the scene and to provide all relevant identifying information as well as their insurance information to law enforcement and to the other party;
- If there is damage to property or domestic animal — again provide identifying information to the injured party and if no one is at the scene of the accident — to contact 911 and report the accident and share all identifying information with law enforcement;
- When a real or personal property or a wild or domestic animal poses a risk to others as a result of a collision — there is a legal duty to call 911 and to report the incident and to provide identifying information as well as a detailed description of the incident and the nature of the risk created to others.
It is not an affirmative defense to leaving and colliding charge if the defendant can prove by the preponderance of the evidence that:
- His or other’s safety would have been compromised by stopping and reporting;
- This belief was reasonable and well supported by the facts;
- As soon as reasonably possible the reporting was made via calling 911 or otherwise reporting to the law enforcement
It is not on the other hand an affirmative defense if the defendant:
- Was driving while intoxicated, impaired or under the influence; or
- Claims not to be at fault for the collision and thus justifying not stopping at the scene.
Penalties for leaving the scene after colliding carried up to 180 days incarceration in addition to fines.
RESOURCES & LEGAL ARTICLES
- LEAVING THE SCENE AFTER COLLIDING — FIRM BLOG
- SUBMIT OR NOT TO THE BLOOD ALCOHOL TEST — IMPLIED CONSENT ACT — FIRM BLOG
- DC CODE PENALTIES FOR DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
- IMPAIRED OPERATING OR DRIVING
- DRUNK DRIVING PREVENTION
- STATUTORY PENALTIES FOR DUI/DWI
- CSOCSA — TRAFFIC AND ALCOHOL PROGRAM
- BLOOD ALCOHOL LEVEL CALCULATOR
- DC DUI LAWYER VIDEO
- SOBRIETY TEST MANUAL
Given the complexity of the statutory language and both stiff criminal and civil ramifications, it is essential to immediately after an arrest under to contact an experienced DC DUI lawyer to defend your rights and to minimize your criminal and civil exposure.
Our DC criminal defense lawyer routinely litigate complex DC DUI or DC DWI cases often times accident involved with successful results obtaining either dismissals, non-guilty verdicts or other favorable outcomes such as diversion or probation.
Contact our tenacious Washington DC DUI lawyer today for initial case evaluation and analysis.