What is DWI?

Driving while intoxicated, and the highest level of alcohol related charges, generally BAC (blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more).

What is DUI?

Driving while impaired, the middle range charge corresponding with BAC levels between 0.05-0.08.

What is OWI?

Operating or being in physical control of a vehicle when ability to operate is visibly compromised, generally BAC of 0.05 or less.

What are the penalties associated with DWI/DUI charges?

Penalties for DC DWI/DUI conviction:  fines no more than $1000, maximum prison term of no more than 180 days.

BAC level between 0.20-0.25: mandatory 10 days jail time, BAC between 0.25-0.30:  15 days mandatory and over 0.30 — 20 days.

Penalties for OWI?

$500 fine and 90 days maximum jail time.

What is a chemical test?

Either a breathalyzer or blood test.

Are the breathalyzer test results admissible in court?

Yes when they are reliable and accurate and the devices in use have current calibration certificates.

Can I refuse a breathalyzer test?

Yes, in doing so you will deprive the government of the very evidence they would use to secure convictions.  However there are consequences, the plea and diversion options would be limited and refusal means automatic driving privileges suspension.

Shall one refuse test?

With repeat offenders and with those with high BAC level, YES.  With first time offender with a low BAC level content then the decision is a though one as refusal complicates resolution via first time defender diversion program.

What is a DMV revocation hearing?

Generally after arrest, the office will issue a notice of possible revocation and this process can be stopped by filing for an administrative hearing with 10 days (DC residents)_and 15 days (non DC residents) to toll or defer suspension pending a DMV administrative hearing.

What happens at the DMV hearing?

Generally continued after the resolution of the court case and thereafter depending on the court case outcome the DMV administrative judge makes a decision regarding suspension and duration thereof.

Can I get an exception to DMV suspension?

Even if suspended for a period, there are work/employment exceptions where drive to and from work can be carved out.

What should I do when charged with any of the alcohol related offenses?

First relax and then seek a lawyer who is not only able to get a plea agreement but can also take the matter effectively to trial and get an acquittal.

How can I get an acquittal or have my case dismissed?

Illegal stop – the police has to have a probable cause or at the very minimum a reasonable articulable suspicion to pull a car over.  If you are pulled over when not in any traffic violation then there maybe a 4th amendment violation and motion to dismiss.

Unreliable chemical test results: Either lack of proper calibration, or  lack of proper administration or even human error all can lead to a chemical test (BAC) being unreliable or faulty or to be thrown out and your case with it.

Improper police conduct: If the arresting officer violates any of your constitutional rights, then you may have a claim constitutional claim.   That is for example: improper or lack of Miranda warning, improper interrogation or questioning, particularly long detention or rough handling,

Police officer does not show for trial or does show but his testimony is not credible or a reasonable doubt can be created during cross examination or via direct evidence.

Can all lawyers get the same plea offer from the government?

No, each lawyer has a separate approach and depending of levels of persuasion, persistence and trial experience prosecutors tend to tailor the plea offers based on facts and evidence but as well opposing counsel trial experience and tenacity.  When you must plea and trial consequences are too high then better get the best plea terms possible.

I am on prescription medication, can I challenge to the chemical test results?

Yes and you must particularly if there are known and provable interactions which render the chemical test unreliable or inaccurate.

Does court generally give more deference to the police officers testimony than the defendants?

Yes but not if the defendant’s testimony is corroborated by another witness or other supporting physical evidence – then the balance may be tipped.

What should I do when I am pulled over?

Don’t panic.  Make sure all your documents(driver license, registration and insurance cards) are easily accessible and all valid and unexpired.

Most often the police officers make “to arrest” and “not to arrest” decision after interacting with a driver.   Be exceedingly polite, do not volunteer information about your possible drink(s), for example: was at dinner and just driving home.

Volunteer information if accurate: have a perfect driving record officer and always follow the traffic rules and regulations.

Turn the inside light of the car on so that the officer can witness there are no weapons and drugs in your possession.

Do not argue with the police officer, if he says you just went through the red light, apologize without admitting anything particularly if you are vulnerable because of possible drinking.

Generally BAC level below .05 is not an arrest-able offense unless exhibiting signs of inebriation.

What happens after being arrested?

Generally processing, and citation release.

If the police officer can via visible signs of inebriation and field sobriety test determine intoxication, then chemical tests are administered at the police station as more reliable in a controlled environment.

What happens at the initial court hearing?

Charges are read formally and discovery and plea offers extended and either trial dates or a status date scheduled.

REFER to our Washington DC DUI Lawyer page for more detailed analysis.