FAQ: DC DUIs

In the unfortunate event that you are arrested for a suspected DUI within the District of Columbia, you likely have many questions that you want answered.  At Scrofano Law PC, while the facts of every case are different, we believe the answers to the following questions are essential for you to know if faced with a possible DC DUI conviction: 

Will I get convicted of my DUI?

To get convicted of a DUI in the District, the government has to prove that you (1) were operating a motor vehicle and that you were (2) intoxicated.  It goes without saying that the less evidence the government has against you, the better chance you have of avoiding conviction.  Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed outcome in any case.

The outcome of your case is largely dependent on numerous factors such as your interactions with the police the night of your arrest, how well you did on the field sobriety tests and the breathalyzer test, and whether you were involved in a collision.  Every piece of evidence the government has against you can be challenged and no case is impossible to win. 

Will I get jail time?

In the District, jail time and payment of statutory fines are uncommon for a DUI conviction.  Technically, both jail time and fines are possible though.  For a first offense DUI, the penalty is up to 180 days in jail.  Second time DUI offenders face up to 1-year incarceration and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

Usually, there is no mandatory jail time or fines for a first offense.  However, there are several provisions in the law that do trigger mandatory minimum jail and fines for first offenders and repeat offenders.

For first offenders, a 10-day mandatory minimum jail is imposed if your BAC was .20 or higher; a 15-day mandatory minimum is imposed if your BAC was .25 or higher, or you tested positive for a Schedule I controlled substance; and a 20-day mandatory minimum is imposed if your BAC was .30 or higher.

If you are a second time DUI offender, there is 10-day mandatory minimum and it increases if your BAC was .20 or higher.  There is a $2,500 mandatory minimum fine for subsequent DUIs after the first.  Any additional DUIs automatically increase the mandatory minimum jail you could serve if convicted.  The possibility of jail time also increases if you were involved in a collision.  Furthermore, although it is highly unlikely that you will have to pay statutory fines if convicted, the caveat is that, more likely than not, the court will order you to pay a contribution of $100 to $250 to the Victims of Violent Crimes Fund.

Should I just take a plea deal?  

In a DC DUI case, more often than not, an offender is charged with Driving Under the Influence and Operating While Intoxicated (“OWI”).  Usually, the government will offer a DUI offender the following plea deal: if you plead to the DUI they’ll dismiss the OWI.  This seems like a good deal because one charge is better than two charges, right?  That’s what the government wants you to think.  This plea offer is anything but a deal though.

What the government won’t tell you is that both charges merge anyway, so ultimately, you end up facing just the DUI charge.  You are no better off agreeing to this type of plea offer than you would be if you took the case to trial and lost.  But, you have no chance of winning if you plea.  Whether the government will offer a DUI offender another type of plea deal depends on if the DUI involved a collision, if the breathalyzer scores exceeded a certain limit, if the offender has any prior DUI convictions, and other various factors.

What happens if I’m convicted? 

Any person convicted of a crime has the right to an appeal.  Whether or not you should appeal depends on what you are looking to get out the situation.  Because of the tedious and time-consuming judicial process, it is likely that you will have already completed your sentence before your appeal is decided.  While you probably won’t avoid your sentence, you can achieve a moral victory by winning an appeal because your conviction would be overturned and erased from your record.  A moral victory is a victory nonetheless, and you have a lot to gain from winning an appeal.

Aside from your option to appeal, unfortunately, you don’t have many other options if you are convicted of a DC DUI.  Under DC law, a DUI conviction is labeled as an ineligible misdemeanor which means that you cannot get the record of your DUI sealed, expunged, or otherwise taken off your record completely.  However, you can get a DUI arrest sealed after four years if you do not get convicted.

Do I have to tell my employer or school?   

More likely than not, your run in with the law is probably something that you don’t want other people to find out about.  You’re human and you make mistakes but you would probably prefer to keep this mistake under wraps.  Unfortunately, many employers, educational institutions, etc. mandate that you inform them of any arrests, pending charges, and convictions on your record.  It is probably best to ask your boss, school, etc. if disclosure is necessary before informing them of sensitive information.

Should I hire a lawyer?

When faced with a possible DUI conviction, you may have more questions than the ones mentioned above and you may need more detailed answers.  It is imperative that you hire an experienced DUI lawyer who will answer any and all of the questions you might have.  At Scrofano Law PC, we have helped numerous clients with all of their DUI questions.  While we can’t guarantee the outcome of your case, we can offer you predictability and reassurance every step of the way.

Scrofano schedule appointment