What are criminal traffic offenses in DC?
DUI and Leaving After Colliding (or hit and run) are the most common traffic offenses in the District of Columbia. Nonetheless, there are still several other arrestable traffic offenses that carry both jail time and fines including (1) Reckless Driving, (2) Speeding Over Thirty (S>30), (3) Operating after a Suspended or Revoked License (OAS or OAR), and (4) No Permit.
Will I be convicted?
To convict you of Reckless Driving in the District, the government is required to prove that you were (1) driving a motor vehicle, (2) carelessly, and (3) in willful and wanton disregard of other people’s safety and rights. The government can usually demonstrate to the court that the manner in which you were driving was unreasonable by simply testifying to what the officer witnessed you do. However, the government may have a harder time proving your intent to drive. What this means is that the government bears the burden of proving that you intended to do the acts for which you were arrested, and that you knew or should have known that your acts created an unreasonable risk of injury. Proving intent is hard for the government because it’s hard to demonstrate what you were thinking at the time of the offense.
Similar to Reckless Driving, to be convicted of S>30, the government has to prove that you were (1) driving a motor vehicle, (2) without proper caution and attention, and (3) speeding in a puts another person in danger or puts property in danger. The last element for S>30 means speeding 30 miles over the posted speed limit. Unlike Reckless Driving, S>30 may be easier for the government to prove because there is no intent element.
For both Reckless Driving and Speeding over 30, the outcome of your case is largely dependent upon all of the circumstances surrounding the incident such as the road, lighting, traffic, the presence of pedestrians, and weather conditions.
In the District, OAS/OAR and No Permit are essentially the same offense. The difference between the two is where you live. OAS/OAR is driving without a permit while a resident of DC and No Permit is driving without a permit while a resident of another state (or with a DC license that has been expired for more than 90 days). To be convicted of either OAS/OAR or No Permit, the government shall prove that you were (1) operating a motor vehicle (2) with a revoked or suspended license or no license at all.
As discussed in a previous post, DC’s law on operation is not favorable for anyone in or around a motor vehicle. For example, the car doesn’t even have to be moving for the government to show that you were operating it. The second element is also relatively easy for the government to prove because they can just have a DMV representative testify that your license was revoked or suspended. The only exception to this rule is for out of state drivers because it is harder for the government to bring an out-of-state DMV representative to testify against you.
Will I have to go to jail?
If you are convicted of Reckless Driving, you could face up to 3 months jail time and/or a $300 fine. For a SOT, you could face up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine. A S>30 convictions carries 12 points on your license which results in the revocation of your license. If you are a first offender, its more likely you’ll avoid jail time and fines.
If you are convicted of OAR or OAS, you could face a maximum penalty of up to one-year jail time and/or a $5,000 fine. For a No Permit conviction, you could face up to 90 days jail time or a $300 fine. For the last two offenses, you’re more likely to avoid jail time and fines if you obtain a valid driver’s license. For more information about how to reinstate your license, visit our blog.
Should I take a plea deal?
Unfortunately, the government rarely offers any type of deals for Reckless Driving or S>30. First offenders have the best chance at being offered a deal. If the government did offer a deal in this situation, it may be a deferred sentencing agreement. What this means is that you must plead guilty but then the court defers sentencing you. During the deferred time, you could possibly pay fines, enroll in a traffic safety course, and/or complete community service. Then, at your sentencing hearing, you could withdraw your guilty plea and the government will not object. The court would then dismiss your case. If this deal was offered, its often better to take the case to trial because you can avoid a conviction on your record if you just jump through some hoops.
Unlike Reckless Driving and S>30 charges, the government is more likely to dismiss OAR, OAS, and No Permit cases for first offenders if they get their license reinstated. For repeat offenders, the government is unlikely to dismiss your case.
Can I get my traffic record sealed?
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 of 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.
You could also attempt to get your record sealed. If you are arrested for any of the above but not convicted, you can seal your arrest record sealed. However, you must wait at least 2 years before you can file a motion to seal. If you arrested and convicted of any of the above four offenses, you can get your record sealed but you must wait at least 8 years before you can file a motion to seal. The only time record sealing may not be an option is if you are a repeat offender. When faced with a possible DC Traffic Offense conviction, it is important that you hire a skilled DC Traffic lawyer who will answer any and all of your questions. At Scrofano Law PC, while we can never guarantee the outcome of a case, we can guarantee you answers and that we’ll fight aggressively on your behalf.
Should I hire a lawyer?
Criminal traffic offenses can carry points at the DMV and sometimes result in revocation or suspension of your license. Penalties also include potential jail time and fines. When faced with a criminal charge, its always important to hire an experienced lawyer who can fight to make sure the government does not trample your rights. If you, a friend, or someone you know has been arrested for a DC Traffic Offense, call Scrofano Law PC immediately for a full consultation.