Recently on our DUI forum a user asked, “If I was involved in a traffic accident in Washington, D.C., and was charged with DUI. What penalties can I expect? My blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was below the legal limit. Will they still have enough evidence to charge me with a DUI?”
Washington, D.C. Laws and Penalties for DUI
It is against the law to operate a motorized vehicle in Washington, D.C., with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. With probable cause, however, a D.C. police officer may have the right to arrest any other driver for DUI if they believe they are unable to safely operate their vehicle due to intoxication.
If you were involved in an accident after drinking alcohol obviously this is a very good indication that you were not able to safely operate your vehicle and will be arrested by the police.
After an accident and subsequent DUI arrest the officer should have issued you an Order of Proposed Suspension. This is an administrative suspension which can be challenged within five days of the DUI arrest. If you decide to challenge the suspension you will need to schedule an administrative review of the suspension. Non-DC residents will have ten days to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles and schedule their administrative review.
What happens at the administrative hearing in Washington, D.C.?
The administrative hearing is not a criminal trial. In fact, it simply gives the arresting police officer the opportunity to provide evidence about your arrest and whether or not your license should be suspended.
After the hearing the hearing examiner can either reinstate your driver’s license or allow the suspension to move forward. If your license is suspended you may apply for a restricted license during the suspension period so you may continue to attend work and other limited functions.
Criminal penalties and a first-time Washington, D.C., offense
It’s important to note that the administrative license suspension is separate from any criminal charges or penalties which will be assessed against you. In some cases drivers may have their license suspended by the DMV for failing to submit to a chemical test following a DUI arrest or submitting to the test and having a BAC of 0.08% or higher but ultimately NOT be convicted of DUI.
Now, you specifically asked what penalties you might face after your DUI arrest. If you are charged with DUI this means the state’s prosecution attorney believes that there is sufficient evidence that you were intoxicated.
Generally, a first-time DUI is a misdemeanor, which should be the case for you since it was your first DUI arrest and no one was injured in the car accident. For a first-time DUI charge, if you are found guilty, you can expect the following penalties:
- Potential jail time up to 180 days. The court, however, may choose not to send you to jail.
- Required to pay fines ranging from $300 up to $1,000.
- License suspension for six months. Your license may be reinstated after this time but you will have to pay the reinstatement fee and file a proof of financial responsibility in the form of DC SR22 Insurance.
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