DWI Charges in DC

Below is further information on DWI charges in DC. For more information on how a DC DWI lawyer can help, visit this page.

Standards for a DWI Arrest

The laws regarding a DWI arrest are rather complex. The first thing that must exist is a reasonable suspicion that a crime is occurring. In the case of driving while intoxicated, this can consist of an officer watching a vehicle swerve in and out of traffic. This creates enough suspicion to warrant a traffic stop.

Keep in mind, however, that random DWI checkpoints are still fully legal. There are ten states that feel that random checkpoints are unreasonable searches and seizures; these states ban the checkpoints in their own constitutions. In 1990, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that random DWI checkpoints were completely legal, and Washington, D.C. goes by this standard.

D.C. statute 50-1901 makes it apparent that everyone in Washington D.C. who obtains a license has given their “implied consent” that they will submit to chemical testing when requested to by law enforcement. For a person to be presumed legally intoxicated under the law, he or she must have a .08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) as evidenced by a breathalyzer or other blood alcohol measuring device. Commercial drivers are only allowed a limit of .04 percent, and there is a zero tolerance policy (0.00 percent BAC) for underage drivers.

Field sobriety tests are also performed to establish further evidence. Keep in mind that there are only three field sobriety tests approved by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. If these tests are not performed or are performed incorrectly, there may be a serious lack of damning evidence if the case goes to trial.

Possible Penalties

The penalties related to a DWI conviction in D.C. are very serious and can vary depending on the specific circumstances of each case. Statutes 50-2205.01-.03 deal with DWI evidence that can be used against a person, but once it is proven that that individual was under the influence of alcohol, they are very likely to be convicted without strong legal counsel.

A first-time DWI offender will usually face no minimum jail time and a license suspension lasting from three to six months. Recent increases in penalties, however, have made it possible for first-time offenders to face 180 days in jail and up to $1000 in fines. These penalties, however, definitely are not the harshest.

Repeat DWI offenders and first-time offenders who have a blood alcohol content of .20 or higher will face a minimum jail sentence of ten days. A first time offender who blows over a .25 will face 15 days in jail, and someone with a BAC of .30 percent or higher will have a minimum sentence of 20 days. These mandatory minimums are among the harshest in the nation, so anyone charged with a DWI, even if it’s their first, will benefit from legal help.

DWI Process in the Justice System

Those who fail a breathalyzer or other chemical test will be arrested and booked into the local police station. Just like any other alleged criminal, they will be fingerprinted and given a citation to appear in court at a later date.

Prosecutors will attempt to have a person plead guilty to a DWI charge with threats of what could occur if the case goes to trial. It is absolutely vital for anyone charged with this crime to plead not guilty and get legal help. Regardless of how much evidence police say they have against a person, this is never a guaranteed conviction. A plea of not guilty will warrant a court date being set up, at which time an individual can present their defense.

Driving under the Influence Statistics in DC

Statistics show that in 2010, there were five deaths related to alcohol-impaired driving in the District. All of these incidents involved drivers whose blood alcohol content was .15 percent or higher. This is likely why legislators increased DWI penalties in the summer of 2011. That same year, the rate of drunken driving fatalities was .08 per every 100,000 citizens, but this reflects a nearly 70 percent decrease over the past ten years.

How an Experienced Attorney can Help

Attorneys are especially helpful when it comes to DWI cases. The simple fact of the matter is that the burden of proof lies on the shoulders of the government, and there are numerous checks and balances to ensure that innocent people do not go to jail. As previously mentioned, there are only a few acceptable field sobriety tests. If an officer fails to administer these tests correctly, then the supposed evidence that they gain will be inadmissible.

A Washington, DC DWI lawyer will also have the knowledge and connections to quickly recover potentially positive evidence. Breathalyzers, for instance, are manmade machines that require periodic maintenance. If these machines are not calibrated correctly, they can give inaccurate readings. An attorney can quickly get access to the calibration records of a specific breathalyzer and, if it was not calibrated routinely, those BAC results likely will not be usable in court.

The aforementioned defenses that attorneys can use are meant to ensure that police are properly doing their jobs, but there are instances where a person may actually fail a breathalyzer even if they’re not drunk and police do not commit detrimental errors. Some breathalyzers, for instance, will read the increased levels of acetone in a diabetic’s or dieter’s system as alcohol.

In addition, alcohol in a person’s stomach or the remnants remaining in their mouth after drinking may register on a breathalyzer even though it has not been absorbed into a person’s system. When it comes to DWI, the law only cares how high a person’s BAC actually is. If there is the potential of a misreading due to any of the aforementioned reasons, then the results of the breathalyzer may be invalidated. A good defense attorney will investigate all of these possibilities.

Getting Legal Help is the Best Option

Being convicted for driving under the influence is going to carry serious repercussions everywhere in America, but these consequences in Washington D.C. are especially damaging. Recent laws have significantly increased DWI penalties, so it is absolutely essential for anyone charged with the crime to hire a knowledgeable DWI lawyer. It may be an uphill battle, but an experienced DWI lawyer has the best chance of getting a good outcome for their client. Give us a call today for a free consultation.