DC OWI Lawyer

Charges of Operating While Impaired (OWI) in Washington, DC are defined by District Code Section 50-2206.14, which states, “it is a crime to operate (or be in physical control) of any vehicle while one’s ability to operate the vehicle is impaired by alcohol and/or any drug(s). In essence, the charge applies if a driver has consumed enough alcohol (or has taken enough of a drug or even medication) to negatively impact their ability to safely operate a vehicle. Given the nuances involved in such charges, you would be wise to retain the services of a dedicated Washington, DC OWI attorney if you have been cited for OWI.

OWI, which is sometimes called Operating While Impaired, is a relatively easy to prove charge when compared with Driving Under the Influence (DUI), though the ramifications of conviction are not quite as dire. OWI cases can hinge solely on the prosecution’s ability to prove that the defendant’s ability to operate a vehicle was noticeably impaired. The defendant’s BAC may be lower than the minimum level of intoxication (0.08 BAC) and he or she may still suffer a conviction if prosecutors and police provide sufficient proof of being impaired. Often, OWI charges are levied against underage drivers who may not be legally drunk as the District of Columbia has adopted a strict “no tolerance” stance when it comes to drinking and driving.

The seriousness of the charge is reflected in the fact that an OWI is classified as a misdemeanor with a fine that may range up to $500 for first-time offenders and the possibility of up to 90 days in jail. Subsequent convictions make contacting a DC OWI even more imperative as penalties may include:

  • A second OWI conviction within 15-years brings a fine of $1,000 to $2,500 and up to one year in jail, of which at least five days cannot be suspended.
  • A third conviction within a 15-year period can result in a $1,000 to $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail, of which at least 10 days must be served.

OWI and Plea Agreements in Washington, DC

There are many times when prosecutors might realize a DC DWI or DUI charge is not likely to result in a conviction, and may be amenable to allowing a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge, such as OWI. Depending on the circumstances and facts of your case, a misdemeanor OWI may be a good deal because an OWI conviction may not have the same consequences to your driver’s license (if your license is other than a DC license) and does not carry the same stigma as a DUI conviction. A DC OWI lawyer can help provide more information on OWI charges and when a plea may be available.

Consequences of a DC OWI

There are still social and professional penalties that can result from an OWI. If convicted, you will incur a criminal record – albeit for a misdemeanor charge. This could negatively impact your work, particularly if you have a commercial driver’s license or are required to pass a security clearance. It’s possible for an OWI conviction to show up on your credit report. And if you’re a student at any number of public and private universities, you could face repercussions at school – or see your application for admission denied – depending on the college’s policies.

That is why it is so important that you retain the services of a well-qualified DC OWI attorney. You will need the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer who is well versed in the local courts and who has a demonstrated record of success in defending OWI and other alcohol- and drug-related charges.

Perception Versus Reality of OWI Charges

Most people don’t know what an OWI means. Just about everyone in the United States has a conception in their mind of what DUI is and stands for (whether that conception is correct or not). Thus, if someone sees a person’s record and sees a DUI conviction, they are going to think, “Ah, drunk driver.” That is a negative translation, obviously.

If, on the other hand, someone sees OWI on an individual’s record, they are not going to know what to think because they don’t know exactly what that means and that gives any individual who is convicted of an OWI versus a DUI that critical opportunity to explain.

In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that an OWI has benefits (when compared to DUI and DWI), but it is the same statute and the same idea and requires the same proof as a DUI. For that reason, the defense of an OWI charge is the same as a DUI.