While driving under the influence (“DUI”) and leaving after colliding cases (“LAC”) are common charges filed in traffic court in the District of Columbia, several other traffic crimes constitute arrestable offenses.  Driving without a valid permit can give rise to two potential charges.  The charge of No Permit carries a maximum penalty of 90 days or a $300 fine while Operating after Suspension (or Revocation) carries a maximum penalty of 1 year and/or a $5,000 fine.  The difference between the 2 is more about what the government can prove than what the specific conduct is. 

If someone gets caught driving without a valid permit in DC and has an out of state license, the government will charge that person with “No Permit.”  If the person caught driving without a valid permit has a DC license, the government will charge with OAS or OAR.  The government has difficulty proving someone from Virginia or Maryland (for example) has had their driving privileges revoked or suspended.  That is because the government must put on a live witness from the Department of Motor Vehicles to testify that the person’s license is revoked or suspended.  They can easily subpoena someone from the DC Department of Motor Vehicles.  Getting someone to testify from out of state is another story.  For these types of arrests, the government will often dismiss the case if the person can show they obtained a valid driver’s license.  For repeat offenders, things get trickier.  The government will not typically dismiss someone’s case who has previously remedied their license for a dismissal.

Other common arrestable traffic offenses include reckless driving and speeding over 30 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.  Both offenses are misdemeanors.  Both offenses carry 12 points and result in loss of driving privileges in DC if convicted.  The maximum penalty for reckless driving is 3 months in jail and/or a $300 fine.  For speed over 30 miles per hour, the maximum penalty is 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine.  The prosecutor will seldom offer diversion in these types of cases.  In some instances, the government may offer something called a “deferred sentencing agreement.”  In a deferred sentencing agreement, the person charged must plead guilty.  The court then defers sentencing for a period of 6 months to 1 year.  During that time, if the person charged jumps through some hoops—like pay fines or take a traffic safety course or completes community service—at sentencing the government will not oppose the withdrawal of the guilty plea.  It is basically like a contract with the government and if the person completes the agreement, the government will dismiss the case.

Other common traffic offenses include possession of an open container of alcohol (“POCA”) in a vehicle or out in public.  Since marijuana decriminalization passed in 2014, the OAG now prosecutes smoking marijuana in public offenses in traffic court.  Like POCA, smoking marijuana in public carries a maximum penalty of 90 days and/or a $500 fine.  Drinking in public, disorderly conduct, and fleeing are also common traffic crimes charged in DC Superior Court.  Fleeing is a serious traffic offense that carries a maximum penalty of 180 days and/or a $1,000 fine and 12 points with DC DMV if convicted.

If you are arrested for a criminal traffic offense, it is important you speak to a qualified criminal defense lawyer who can advise you as to your rights.  Contact Scrofano Law PC today for a consultation.