DC DUI Lawyer

The term “driving under the influence” often conjures disturbing images of vehicles driving erratically, swerving wildly across lanes, but the truth is that most DUI traffic stops are far less dramatic. In fact, most of these arrests come after a stop for a minor traffic violation. Rather than being significantly inebriated, many drivers arrested for DUI simply fail to realize just how few drinks it takes to put someone over the legal limit.

With that said, if you have never been in trouble with the law, a first offense DUI arrest can be frightening and confusing. If you are facing a second, third, or subsequent drunk driving offenses, you know the impact a conviction may have on your life. For these reasons, it is important to make sure that you understand the severity of the offense and consult with a DC DUI lawyer to assist in guiding you through the legal process. To learn more or discuss the steps that may be involved in defending your rights, call and schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney today.

Elements of a Drunk Driving Charge

Driving under the influence is a very serious offense. DC Code § 50-2206.11 states that it is illegal for any person to operate or be in physical control of any vehicle while the person is under the influence of alcohol and/or any drug(s). As explained above, it is a “per se” rule that any driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher is presumed to be driving while intoxicated. However, a driver is presumed to be driving under the influence if:

  • The driver has a BAC under 0.08 but at or above 0.05
  • The driver has a BAC under 0.05 but above 0.00 and one of the following is true: (1) the person is driving a commercial vehicle, (2) the person is under 21 years of age, or (3) there is evidence that the driver is impaired by a drug
  • The driver has a BAC of 0.00 but there is substantial evidence that the driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle is significantly impaired by the consumption of a drug

This is because if a driver’s BAC is below 0.05, there is a rebuttable presumption that the driver is not under the influence of alcohol and/or any drug(s). However, that presumption does not apply (see § 50-2206.51(b)) if there is evidence of impairment from consumption of a drug, the person is/was driving a commercial vehicle, or the driver was under 21 years of age.

Some examples of non-BAC evidence of impairment that a DC DUI lawyer could defend against are:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • Unbalanced coordination
  • Failed field sobriety tests
  • Hazardous driving

DUI/DWI/OWI Laws and Penalties in DC

There are three serious charges that can be issued in the District of Columbia for drunk driving: Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Driving Under the Influence (DUI), and Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated (OWI). If an individual has been charged and convicted of any of these three drunk driving violations a DC DUI attorney should be contacted immediately as consequences may include:

It is important that people understand the difference between these drunk driving crimes. Driving while intoxicated is the most serious offense with the most severe consequences, particularly because the enhanced penalties for high BAC levels only apply to DWI charges. Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or any drug(s) is also a serious offense with the same penalties as a DWI, except the BAC-related enhanced penalties for the latter. Operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol and/or any drug(s) is the least serious drunk-driving violation, but is still a criminal offense punishable by jail sentences and fines.

If someone is convicted of their first DUI charge, they are facing up to 90 days in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, and a license suspension of six months. A second conviction carries the penalties of up to one year in jail, up to $5,000 in fines, and a license suspension of one year. If the individual is charged with a DUI for the third time, then they face one year imprisonment, up to $10,000 in fines, and a license suspension of two years. Call today to learn how a tenacious attorney could help a defendant avoid these penalties.

Rights and Responsibilities During a DUI Traffic Stop

A police officer needs to have a legal reason to pull someone over. That reason may be as simple as a broken taillight or a rolling stop, or it may be as severe as erratic, reckless driving or excessive speed. If the police officer who stops an individual’s vehicle suspects that they may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the officer will likely ask questions designed to coerce the person to admit guilt. An individual does not have to answer any questions about their activities or whether they have had anything to drink. The person should be polite and provide their identification but decline to answer any questions without the advice of your lawyer. The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from incriminating themselves and gives people the right to refuse to answer investigative questions. It is advisable to let a seasoned DC DUI attorney talk to law enforcement instead. What a lawyer says cannot be used against the individual in court.

If someone is suspected of inebriated driving, the officer may ask them to perform standardized field sobriety tests or may ask the individual to submit to a roadside breath test. The individual does not have to submit to these tests, which are not intended to prove their innocence, but rather to indicate intoxication and prove their guilt.

If someone is arrested for driving under the influence, they may be asked to submit to a blood alcohol analysis test, generally through a breath machine at the police station. In some instances, the officer may request that they submit to a urine test. These tests are required under the District of Columbia’s implied consent law. Implied consent law says that by driving on the roads in DC the individual has agreed to take these tests. The individual’s refusal to submit to the official breath or urine test will result in the automatic suspension of their license, regardless of the outcome of their DUI case.

In any DUI case, time is critical. If an individual has been arrested for drunk or intoxicated driving, they should contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible to protect their rights and begin building their defense and collect all of the necessary evidence for the day of trial. An attorney could investigate the case to see if law enforcement correctly followed the proper procedures. An attorney in Washington, DC could also see if the tests were conducted in the right way.

What Causes a Crash Investigation to Become a DUI Criminal Investigation?

If an officer reports to the scene of a crash and suspects that one of the drivers is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then they will begin an investigation by asking the driver questions. It is common for a police officer to ask a driver in a traffic accident, if they have been drinking or whether they have ingested any drugs (prescription or illegal).

During the traffic stop, law enforcement will start asking those questions to determine whether the person was possibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Based upon how the person is standing, speaking, what their breath smells like, what the person smells like, how they are following directions – in other words, based upon their physical appearance, and mannerisms, and their conduct, the officer may have reason to believe that the individual is under the influence. If so, then a car crash investigation will transition into a criminal and civil investigation.

Being charged with a drinking and driving offense is bad enough without also having a civil suit filed against you. During car accident investigations, law enforcement might find out that you were impaired while you were driving, which could open you up to DUI charges as well as car accident claims. These claims especially occur if the other driver in the accident sustains an injury or damage to their car.

Criminal and civil investigations often come up in a situation where an individual is charged with drunk driving after an accident that resulted in either property damage or physical injuries. In this situation, many times, the other party will file a civil suit against the defendant in the criminal case. If you want to know more about criminal and civil investigations related to intoxicated driving charges, consult a skilled DUI defense attorney who could advocate for you.

Evidence in Civil and Criminal Investigations

In a civil case, the plaintiffs will try to make use of anything they can with regard to the police investigation in the DUI case.

For instance, if the police subjected the defendant to certain field sobriety tests, arrested and charged the individual, there were blood, urine, or breath tests that showed that the defendant was impaired, then in the civil case, the plaintiff will want to use this information to prove liability.

The plaintiff is going to want to use any and all evidence they can in a criminal and civil investigations because they have the government doing all the investigations that the plaintiffs can then use against them. If the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty in the criminal case, that will likely be used by a plaintiff on the civil case against that defendant to prohibit them from arguing that they were not, in fact, driving under the influence. This is why it is important for individuals to get in touch with a DUI attorney in DC that could help them navigate the legal process and could protect their rights in a civil investigation. Being on the receiving end of a drunk driving charge can be an unnerving process, especially if you are also facing a civil claim. Fortunately, a steadfast lawyer is available to help you minimize the harm of the charge.

Deciding Whether to Request a Hearing

In almost every jurisdiction, including DC, a person will be given a form entitled Notice of Proposed Revocation by the police. Every once in a while, the officer either neglects to do so or chooses not to. However, in the vast majority of DUI cases, the officer will fill out the form saying that based upon the arrest for inotxicated driving, the person will lose their driver’s license if they have a DC driver’s license or their privilege to drive in DC if their license is from another jurisdiction.

The driver’s license suspension will be an indeterminate amount of time, but it will be at least six months unless the person requests a hearing at the DC DMV. A person has ten days to request a hearing if they have a DC license and 15 days to do so if they have a license from somewhere else.

The countdown from the time to request a hearing will be from the date of the arrest. Thus, the person who has been arrested for a DUI needs to decide whether they want to automatically lose their ability to drive in DC, which will start ten or 15 days after the arrest if they do not request the hearing. It is advisable that the individual should seriously and quickly consider what they want to do. In most cases, a person who has been charged with a DUI will want to request that hearing to avoid losing the privilege to drive. It is important to know that a dedicated DC DUI attorney could stand by the defendant’s side during the hearing.

Why Should Someone Obtain a Copy of their Driving Record After Being Charged with a DWI?

After someone has been arrested for a DUI, they should obtain a copy of their full driver’s record. The driving record should go as far back as the DMV can give them. This record should also include every jurisdiction where the individual has had a driver’s license. This is because the prosecutors will not just assume that it is a defendant’s first DUI charge. The prosecution will require the defendant to give them their driver’s records to demonstrate whether they have had a prior DUI charge or conviction on their record.

It is essential for a person to provide an attorney with their driving records regardless of whether they have been convicted of a DUI or not. The defendant will want to make sure that their attorney has all of the information that the prosecutors have so there are no surprises. After reviewing the defendant’s driving record, a DC lawyer could decide how to best proceed with a defense for a DUI charge. For instance, if the individual has a relatively clean record, the lawyer could argue that the defendant has a tracked record of being a responsible and safe driver. This could help the defendant avoid harsh penalties that can come with a drinking and driving conviction.

Finding an Attorney With Local Knowledge

An individual arrested for drunk driving should find a seasoned attorney who focuses on that specific jurisdiction. Thus, if a person is arrested for DUI in the District of Columbia, step one is to find an attorney who focuses on DUIs in DC. An experienced drunk driving lawyer will be familiar with the specific laws regarding drinking and driving in DC. Also, they will know the prosecutors and judges, which will allow them to know what defense strategies work best. Being familiar with the prosecutors and judges will also be helpful when it comes to negotiating. It is possible for an attorney to get a DUI charge reduced to reckless driving, which is a far less serious offense.

Defense from an Experienced DC DUI Attorney

If you have been arrested for a DUI, reach out to an attorney right away. The sooner you obtain a lawyer, the sooner they could begin building a defense. Let a dedicated attorney fight on your behalf. Whether challenging the legality of your traffic stop, arrest, or breathalyzer results, appearing with you for arraignment or status hearing at the courthouse, or negotiating a reduced plea or a deferred sentence through the DC diversion program, an attorney could explore every option for the best possible outcome to your case given the circumstances. Do not fight these charges alone. Let a skilled defense attorney fight for you and advocate on your behalf. A lawyer could look out for your best interests and help you avoid serious penalties, such as jail time, fines, and a driver’s license suspension. Call today to schedule your consultation with a knowledgeable and skilled DC DUI lawyer.