Getting behind the wheel after a few drinks is never a great idea. Every state in the U.S. has strict drunk driving -- or driving under the influence (DUI) -- laws. The District of Columbia is no different. In the District, DUI laws regulate the maximum concentration of alcohol allowed in a driver's bloodstream; the kinds of tests drivers are required to take to determine alcohol levels; and the penalties associated with drunk driving offenses.
While some drivers may claim that a few drinks will not impair their ability to drive, the District of Columbia has specific blood alcohol concentration levels that determine whether or not a motorist is likely impaired. District of Columbia DUI laws state that no person shall operate or be in physical control of any vehicle when the person's blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of testing is 0.08 grams or more.
The District of Columbia follows a zero tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21. Drivers in this age range will be arrested if any trace of alcohol is present in their system while in actual physical control of a vehicle.
Implied Consent to DUI Tests
Under District of Columbia DUI laws, any person who operates a motor vehicle within the District will be deemed to have given his or her consent to two chemical tests of the person's blood, urine, or breath to determine BAC. The tests will be administered at the direction of a police officer who has reasonable grounds to believe the person operating or in physical control of a motor vehicle has a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
Refusal to Take a Test
A person who refuses to take a chemical test will have his license revoked for a period of 12 months. If the person does not have a license to operate a motor vehicle in the District, the driver will be denied the issuance of a license for a period of 12 months after the date of the alleged violation.
Penalties and Sentencing
The District of Columbia DUI penalties are determined by the BAC present in the driver at the time of the arrest and how many times the driver has been arrested for this offense. The following shows the fines, jail time, and mandatory minimum sentences associated with each offense:
- First Offense: 180 days in prison; $1,000 fine; 6-month license revocation
- Second Offense: 1 year in prison; $2,500-$5,000 fine; 1-year license revocation
- Third Offense: 1 year in prison; $2,500-$10,000; 2-year license revocation
Mandatory Minimum Sentences
BAC Below .20
- First Offense: none
- Second Offense: 10 days
- Third Offense: 12 days
- Fourth and Subsequent Offenses: 45 days (add 30 days for each subsequent offense)
BAC Greater than .20 but Under .25
- First Offense: 10 days
- Second Offense: 25 days
- Third Offense: 35 days
- Fourth and Subsequent Offenses: 65 days (add 30 days for each subsequent offense)
BAC Greater than .25 but Under .30
BAC Greater than .30
- First Offense: 20 days
- Second Offense: 35 days
- Third Offense: 45 days
- Fourth and Subsequent Offenses: 75 days (add 30 days for each subsequent offense)
The District also applies mandatory minimum sentences if there are minors present in the car (5 days for each minor present) if the driver is under the influence of one or more of the following:
- Schedule 1 drug;
- methadone; or
- morphine (15 days for a first offense),
Mandatory minimum sentences also apply to those operating a commercial vehicle (5 days if BAC above .04).
Ignition Interlock Device
An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol analyzer connected to the ignition system of a vehicle which the driver must blow into before the vehicle will start. If the motorist's BAC level exceeds the accepted level, the vehicle will not start.
The IID Program allows for reduction of the revocation periods for first or subsequent alcohol or drug related offenses. This program allows a motorist to obtain a restricted drivers license and drive designated vehicles with the IID installed.
Getting Legal Help
If you are facing a DUI charge in District of Columbia, think about seeking legal advice from a qualified District of Columbia DUI attorney to fully understand your rights. With competent legal representation, you can quickly get back into the driver's seat.