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DUI & DWI in Washington DC

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The Sobering Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014 there were 23 traffic fatalities in the District of Columbia. 22% of those involved a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.

We've all seen these eye-opening statistics before, but it bears repeating here: Drunk driving kills. Each intoxicated person who gets behind the wheel takes into their hands not only their life, but the lives of everyone else they'll encounter on the road.

Always appoint a designated driver when you go out to social occasions where alcohol will be part of the festivities. Otherwise, simply calling a cab when you've had too much to drink will prevent trouble and heartache later.

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In addition to the legal penalties outlined below, in the District of Columbia if you are stopped by an MPD officer and arrested for drunk driving (or driving under the influence of drugs), you will be assessed 12 points on your license. This means an automatic revocation of your driving privileges.

DUI/DWI Definitions

In Washington D.C. the amount of your BAC (blood alcohol concentration), age and type of license will determine if you are charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). You can be arrested for:

  • DUI if your BAC is 0.07% or lower.
  • DWI if your BAC is 0.08% or higher.
  • DWI if you are under 21 years old with ANY measurable amount of alcohol*.
  • DWI if you have a CDL and your BAC is 0.04% or over.

In addition to a DUI or DWI charge you can be charged additional penalties, including mandatory jail time if you were driving with a minor in the vehicle, have a BAC of 0.20% or more, are under age and lied or used a false ID to buy alcohol or in possession or under the influence of drugs.

*It is illegal for anyone under 21 years old to consume, purchase or even be in possession of alcohol.

DUI/DWI Penalties

In the District of Columbia you will be faced with both criminal and civil penalties for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated (DUI/DWI).

The civil penalties are known as Administrative Per Se and are carried out by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The other penalties are the criminal ones, which are handled by the local courts.

Implied Consent

Implied consent is exactly what it sounds like - if you drive a vehicle in D.C. you are saying you will submit to a chemical test for drugs and/or alcohol if asked to do so by an officer of the law. Because of the implied consent laws refusing to take a chemical test will automatically get your license suspended for 12 months by the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you do not have a license then you will be denied the ability to apply for one for 12 months.

Administrative Penalties

The minute you are arrested for DUI/DWI the Department of Motor Vehicles will take action to revoke your license. This is an Administrative Per Se revocation and is completely separate from any actions the court may take. The arresting officer will give you a Order of Proposed Revocation and your license will be revoked for:

1st offense: minimum 6 months.
2nd offense: minimum 2 years.
3rd and subsequent offenses: minimum 3 years.

Once you are given the Order of Proposed Revocation you will need to schedule a permit hearing within 10 calendar days if you are a DC resident or within 15 calendar days if you are not a resident. This hearing will determine if you may be allowed to keep your license. The hearing must be scheduled by contacting DC DMV Adjudication Services either by mail or by calling (202) 737-4404. You can find out more about permit hearings and applying for a Limited Occupational License by visiting the DC DMV website.

Criminal Penalties

Washington D.C does not mess around when it comes to punishing those who drink and drive. The penalties are stiff and expensive. If you are convicted of a DUI or DWI, in addition to the revocation of your license, you will be facing:

1st offense DUI/DWI OR Chemical Test Refusal

  • Maximum imprisonment: 180 days.
AND/OR
  • Fine: $1,000.
BAC at or over 0.20% has additional penalty of 10 to 20 days in jail.

2nd offense DUI/DWI

  • Mandatory imprisonment: 10 days.
  • Maximum imprisonment: 1 year.
AND/OR
  • Fine: $2,500 to $5,000.
Refuse chemical test OR BAC over 0.20% has additional penalty of 25 to 35 days in jail.

3rd offense DUI/DWI

  • Mandatory imprisonment: 12 days.
  • Maximum imprisonment: 1 year.
AND/OR
  • Fine: $2,500 to $10,000.
Refuse chemical test OR BAC over 0.20% has additional penalty of 35 to 45 days in jail.

4th and subsequent offenses DUI/DWI

  • Mandatory imprisonment: 45 days.
  • Maximum imprisonment: 1 year.
AND/OR
  • Fine: $2,500 to $10,000.
Refuse chemical test OR BAC over 0.20% has additional penalty of 45 to 75 days in jail AND 30 days added for each offense.

Ignition Interlock Device Program and Restricted Driver License

If you have been convicted in court or had your license revoked administratively because of an alcohol- or drug-related offense you may qualify for a restricted DC driver's license with the Ignition Interlock Device Program. This program allows you to drive after a alcohol or drug charge ONLY if you have a IID installed in your vehicle.

An IID is connected to the ignition of a car and analyzes the breath alcohol level of the driver. If the device detects alcohol then the vehicle will not start. Along with this there are also "rolling tests" where the device will notify you to give another sample to the device while the car is running.

In order to find out if you are eligible for the IID Program you must call the Driver Services Administration at (202) 727-2200.

To be considered for the IID Program you:
  • Had a valid DC DMV driver license immediately prior to revocation.
  • Have not unsuccessfully participated in this program in the last 5 years.*
  • Have not been convicted in any jurisdiction of causing injury or death while operating a vehicle
  • Have no other additional or pending license suspensions or revocations.
  • Have a completed Ignition Interlock Program Application (Rev 7/2015).
  • Must obtain and keep current High Risk SR22 Insurance.
  • Must meet the Director of the DMV's criteria for the IID Program.
  • Must have the IID installed by a DC DMV approved vendor.**
  • Must have documentation of the installation of the IID.
  • Pay the IID application fee of $50.
  • Pay the driver's license reinstatement fee of $98.

*This applies to any jurisdiction.
**An IID must be installed in all vehicles you drive.

You will also be responsible for the installation, maintenance and monitoring fee of your IID.

License Reinstatement

If your license was revoked due to a drug or alcohol offense you must request a Reinstatement Hearing by filling out a Reinstatement Hearing Application (Form DMN-DIO-RHA-002). Along with the application you will be required to include proof you completed a state certified alcohol/drug counseling program or a DC Department of Behavioral Health Substance Abuse Course for a drug offense.

You will need to mail the application, proof of course completion, and proof of fulfilling any other requirements you had from the courts or DMV, plus a check or money order for the $98 reinstatement fee to:

DC DMV Driver Improvement Office
P.O. Box 90120
Washington, DC 20090

You can also drop off the application, fee and other required documents at your local DMV.

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