DC DUI Drugs: A Tale of Two Cases

In the Washington, DC criminal defense world, a common scenario occurs where an individual gets pulled over by the police, arrested for DUI, and charged with two cases.  This scenario occurs when someone gets pulled over, the officer arrests the person for DUI, and later finds drugs in the vehicle—regardless of whether the drugs actually belong to the person arrested.

In most jurisdictions, that person would get charged for two crimes: drug possession and DUI.  In DC, however, the person will not only get two charges but have two criminal cases against them.  Two separate law enforcement agencies will prosecute each case.  The DC Office of the Attorney General will prosecute the DUI, and the United States Attorneys’ Office for the District of Columbia will prosecute the drug possession charge.  It is common for one set of facts to lead to a prosecution for two separate charges.  But DC criminal law is unique that the same set of facts can lead to prosecution for two separate cases.

That means a local prosecutor will handle the DUI and a federal prosecutor will handle the drug charge.  In most jurisdictions, the same prosecutor would handle both charges which would likely lead to a plea offer for a “one for one” where the client pleads to one charge and the government dismisses the other.  However, because of DC’s unique status as neither a state nor county, people who get arrested in this situation find themselves dealing with two different prosecuting agencies, each with its own sets of policies, rules, and, frankly, agenda.  Without an experienced DC criminal defense lawyer, someone in this situation could find themselves convicted of both crimes in both cases.  They could lose their license, lose their job, be put on probation, or even go to jail.

The DC Office of the Attorney General is a local agency funded by the DC City Council.  DC criminal law is written in such a way that this office only has jurisdiction over traffic crimes.  In fact, DUI and DWI crimes are the most serious crimes that this office can prosecute.  I have a joke that I like to tell that the DC Office of the Attorney General treats DUI and DWI cases like murder cases because it’s the most serious crime they have jurisdiction over.  As a result, there are very limited options other than plea or go to trial.  The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is a federal agency and part of the Department of Justice.  The good news is that it has relaxed its requirements for pretrial diversion (programs where defendants complete community service and other requirements in exchange for dismissals of their case).  However, it is extremely rare in this scenario that one prosecutor will dismiss one case even if the accused pleads in another case.  Therefore, its important to hire a tough, smart DC criminal defense lawyer who is not afraid to try cases.

If you are arrested for a criminal charge, including DUI, drug possession, or both in Washington, DC or Northern Virginia, contact Scrofano Law PC for a consultation and evaluation of your case.  We can help you navigate the legal system and help you provide a strong defense to the charges.