The pertinent DC statute addressing driving a motor vehicle while under the influence also addresses leaving the scene of an accident after colliding because often drinking and driving results in accidents.

Thus this blog addresses both of these offenses in detail enumerating the statutory/legal elements for both offenses separately.

Specifically, the statute criminalizes damage to property as well as damage to an individual and also a domestic animal.

That is, any person operating a vehicle that causes “substantial damage” to another property (vehicle) and leaves without either giving assistance or without leaving his name, place or residence, and identifying information — is guilty of leaving after colliding a scene of an accident (LAC) – and upon first conviction will face:

180 days/$1000 fine, and on the second offense would potentially face up to a year/fines not more than $2500 or both if injury is to a person, if damage is to a property or a domestic animal — then the first offense 30 days/$250.00 and second 90 days/$500 fines.

In an event that there is an injury to any individual as a result of the accident, then, the law enforcement and 911 must be called and one cannot leave the scene by leaving identifying information.

Moreover, if the injury to the property or to a domestic animal caused by the accident poses a risk or danger to others, then, law enforcement must also be called and one cannot leave the scene of the accident by just leaving identifying information.


There are technically three levels of driving under influence charges is the District categorized substantially based on the Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) and also observations made during a field sobriety test.

If the BAC level is over 0.08, there is a presumption of intoxication generally referred to as “per se” intoxication categorized as most severe charge DWI: Driving While Intoxicated.

If your BAC is less than 0.08, or that a BAC cannot be determined (such in cases of refusal), then, you will most likely be charged with the lesser included offense of DUI: Driving Under the Influence. This provision also applies in circumstances where alcohol plays no role, that is, when consumption of drugs is suspected.

The DC Comprehensive Impaired Driving Act of 2012 increased significantly (doubled) the penalties for drinking and driving and also increased mandatory minimum sentences as such.

However both DWI and DUI carry the same penalty for the first offense: 180 days jail time/$1000 fines or both. Second offense up to one year incarceration and fines not less than $2500 and not more than $5000.00 and increased mandatory minimums.

The minimum sentences are as follows: when BAC is between 0.20-.25 there is a mandatory 10 days sentence, and when beyond 0.25 there is 15 days and over .30 — 20 days of mandatory jail time.

Operating While Impaired or OWI is the lesser include offense to DUI, and is charged when person’s ability to operate the vehicle is impaired. The first time offender penalties for this offense are up to 90 days/fines $500.

In reality, if your BAC falls under 0.08 or that you refuse to submit or if there are just neither visible (through sobriety test) nor chemical evidence of intoxication (breath, blood or urine test) – then you will be most likely charged with DUI or OWI or both.

There is however a rebuttable presumption of that one is not intoxicated if the BAC is 0.05 or lower. That is, if you are pulled over and you submit and the BAC level indicator is 0.05 or lower, there would be no basis for any driving and drinking charges.

Incidentally if you are also under the age of 21 and your blood, urine, or breath, measures any level of alcohol while driving, you will be charged under the same provision with penalty as listed above.

There are also civil collateral damage to drinking and driving. That is your driving privileges would be automatically suspended unless a DMV hearing is requested within 10 days of an arrest.

There is detailed blog on our site, which addresses the DC Implied Consent Act: DC-drinking-and-driving-implied-consent-statute-submit-or-not-to-the-blood-alcohol-content-test/.

As far as challenging the DWI/DUI/OWI arrests in DC, there are two effective approaches. First challenging the legality of the traffic stop, especially in cases where no traffic offense has been violated and none charged.

Secondly, challenging both the observed evidence (field sobriety test), the officer’s observations otherwise, and the validity of the chemical test results obtained either in the field or at the station, calibration issues, operational errors, chain of custody, etc.

Refer to our Washington DC DUI Lawyer/DC Criminal Lawyer for more information on this subject.

Contact our Washington DC Criminal Lawyer today to schedule an initial case evaluation and analysis.

Categories: Criminal Defense.