In the District of Columbia, there are three main alcohol related driving offenses. The first two are basically the same crime with different ways for the government to prove a person committed the offense. Driving under the Influence or “DUI” and Driving while Intoxicated or “DWI” both carry a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and/or $1,000.00 in fines for first time offenders. For DUI, the government has to prove that a person was operating a motor vehicle and that person was impaired to an “appreciable degree.” The government usually tries to prove DUI cases with testimony from police officers who observed a driver’s behavior.
This type of testimony usually includes things like the person had a strong odor of alcohol or his or her eyes were red. The government usually has an officer testify about how a person may have failed the “standardized field sobriety tests” or SFST’s. SFST’s include three roadside tests that an officer will conduct during a traffic stop. These three tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus or “HGN” (follow a pen with your eyes), the walk and turn (walk a straight line heel to toe), and the one leg stand (stand on one leg and count).
For DWI, the government’s burden to prove the case is less. They only have to prove that a person was driving and that while the person was driving the person’s blood alcohol was above a certain limit. The most common scenario is a breath test machine that computes a person’s breathe score at .08 or above. The other methods include blood testing and urine testing. In DC criminal law, a blood score of .08 or above and urine score of .10 or above is the legal limit. DC Superior Court judges have interpreted the DC DUI statute to mean that if the government proves someone was above the legal limit and driving, that person is guilty of either DUI or DWI. As a result, the Office of Attorney General usually charges people with just DUI and then either proceeds to try and prove the case by evidence of impairment or chemical scores depending on the facts of each case.
Finally, DC has a crime many other jurisdictions do not. This crime is called Operating while Impaired or “OWI.” OWI is similar to a DUI in terms of how the government can prove the case but the standard is lower in that the government only has to prove that a person was driving and that their ability to drive was impaired to “any degree.” OWI carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail or a $500 fine for first offenders. If you are arrested for an alcohol related driving offense, the government will likely charge you with DUI and OWI.
Based on DC criminal law, the government cannot convict you of both crimes and you cannot be sentenced for both crimes. However, you should consult an experienced DC DUI lawyer because you could face jail time, fines, probation, loss of driving privileges, and many more consequences of a DUI or OWI conviction.
If you are charged with a DUI, you could face serious consequences and should contact a Washington DC DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Contact Scrofano Law for a free consultation by filing out our online form or calling 202-765-3175.