Washington DC DUI Defense Lawyer

The Law Office of Miguel A. Serrano offers premier representation in Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Operating While Impaired (OWI) offenses.  We will fight for your rights and persistently defend you in court.

Although DUI or OWI in Washington, DC can be a frightening experience, don’t panic. Our law office provides skilled and experienced representation. We will calmly walk you through the steps necessary to make a reasoned and informed decision. 

The maximum penalty for a first-time DUI offender is 180 days in jail.  In addition, a DUI conviction means you will usually have to complete a traffic safety and a traffic alcohol program. The Department of Motor Vehicles will also temporarily suspend your driver’s license within 10 or 15 days of your arrest (depending on where you live) unless you promptly request a hearing.  Contact us for more information at 202-330-6290.

Under certain circumstances a jail sentence is mandatory for a DUI.  For example, upon conviction, a jail sentence must be imposed if: a) it is a second DUI; b) your breath score was above .20 or urine was above .25; 3) you were traveling with a child at the time of the arrest; 4) you were operating a commercial vehicle or 5) if you had consumed either cocaine, PCP, methadone or morphine.  Please see below for additional detailed information.

There is no such thing as a DWI or “Driving While Intoxicated” offense in Washington, DC.  The old law meant that a .08 breath score meant you were DWI.  It didn’t matter if you drove well without impairment.  A breath alcohol score of .08 equaled an arrest.  It was considered “per se” intoxication without any evidence of impaired driving.

Current law still provides a definition for “intoxication” and the government will attempt to prove you are guilty of DUI with evidence of intoxication alone. However, there is no such thing as a DWI statute in Washington, DC anymore.

Intoxication is defined as a breath sample of at least .08, a urine sample of at least .10 or any amount of alcohol in a driver under the age of 21.  In addition, a DUI driver of a commercial vehicle can be intoxicated if the breath score is .04 or urine of .08.

You should also expect an increase in your car insurance premiums due to a DUI.  Another common concern is the negative effect that a DUI or drinking and driving conviction will have on a person’s career, employment or educational goals.  We can help address those concerns.

Government Must Prove It

The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

a) You drove or were in physical control of a vehicle. This means that you don’t actually have to be driving: simply sitting in the driver’s seat is enough.

b) You were either intoxicated (as defined above) or under the influence of alcohol or a drug.

If the breath machine is working properly, the .08 score reflects the level of alcohol in one’s system and is referred to as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

THE INNOCENT DRIVER

Mr. Joe Sewburr is at a bar early one evening with his friend Rick Sodruncq.  During the course of the evening, Mr. Druncq becomes so drunk that he spills his entire glass of beer onto the lap of his pants.  Mr. Druncq is very upset because the beer had cost him almost $10.  Mr. Sewburr, who had driven his friend to the bar, is equally upset but for a different reason: he’ll have to smell the stale beer coming from his friend  throughout the drive home.   

As they leave the bar, Mr. Sewburr can already smell the strong odor of beer on his friend.  It is a very cold night and the two friends settle into a small sports car and turn on the heat for the 20 minute ride home.  

While sitting a red light, Mr. Sewburr picks up his smartphone and places a call.  Before the light turns green, a police officer comes up behind him and flashes his lights.  Mr. Sewburr looks in his rear view mirror and notices that the police officer is walking towards his car. 

The police officer approaches Mr. Sewburr and informs him that he has been stopped because he was using a cell phone while driving.  Mr. Sewburr complies with all of the officer’s requests.  He provides him with a driver’s license and a copy of his registration.  

The police officer suspects that Mr. Sewburr is DUI and has been drinking because he can smell the strong odor of beer from inside the car.  He asks Mr. Sewburr to exit the vehicle.  Mr. Sewburr complies with no difficulty.  He quickly comes to his feet and does not stumble or sway.  In short, he looks like a perfectly sober man.

He is asked to perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests which are routinely conducted by the police when one is arrested for DUI.  The tests usually require one to raise a leg while counting and keeping the other still, of following a pen without moving your head and of waking ten steps, pivoting, and walking ten more steps.  Mr. Sewburr politely tells the officer that he will not perform any of the tests.

The officer then arrests Mr. Sewburr for DUI and takes him to the police station.   At the police station Mr. Sewburr provides a breath sample of .08.  Mr. Sewburr is stunned and explains to the police officer that the machine must have malfunctioned because he had consumed no alcoholic beverages that evening.

The police release Mr. Sewburr and order him to report to court in two weeks.

Mr. Sewburr appears in court for an arraignment in two weeks and then again two months later for trial. During the trial, the prosecutor attempts to prove that Mr. Sewburr is guilty of DUI simply for the fact that he blew a .08.   

Fortunately, Mr. Sewburr will be found not guilty of DUI because the judge will conclude that the breath machine was not functioning properly. Without a valid BAC, the judge concludes that there is no evidence of intoxication. Therefore, Mr. Sewburr is an innocent driver.

The story above illustrates that the government may attempt to prove their case solely on the basis of a .08 BAC. However, a skilled Washington DC DUI attorney will analyze your case and determine the best defense strategy. As illustrated above, breath machines are not always accurate and the police sometimes jump to conclusions and believe that the smell of beer means you should be arrested for DUI.

DUI Penalties:

Here is the complete DUI statute in Washington, DC:

50-2206.13 Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug.

(a) Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, a person violating any provision of _ 50-2206.11 or _ 50-2206.12 shall upon conviction for the first offense be fined $1,000, or incarcerated for not more than 180 days, or both; provided, that:

(1) A 10-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s alcohol concentration was at least 0.20 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath, or was at least 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of urine; or

(2) A 15-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s alcohol concentration was more than 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath or 0.32 grams per 100 milliliters of urine; or

(3) A 20-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s alcohol concentration was more than 0.30 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath or 0.39 grams per 100 milliliters of urine; and

 (4) A 15-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s blood or urine contains a Schedule I chemical or controlled substance as listed in _ 48-902.04, Phencyclidine, Cocaine, Methadone, Morphine, or one of its active metabolites or analogs.

(b) A person violating any provision of _ 50-2206.11 or _ 50-2206.12 when the person has a prior offense under _ 50-2206.11, _ 50-2206.12, or _ 50-2206.14 and is being sentenced on the current offense shall be fined not less than $2,500 and not more than $5,000, or incarcerated for not more than one year, or both; provided, that a 10-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed, and in addition:

 (1) A 15-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s alcohol concentration was at least 0.20 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath, or was at least 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of urine; or

(2) A 20-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s alcohol concentration was more than 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath or more than 0.32 grams per 100 milliliters of urine; or

 (3) A 25-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s alcohol concentration was more than 0.30 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath or 0.39 grams per 100 milliliters of urine; and

(4) A 20-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s blood or urine contains a Schedule I chemical or controlled substance as listed in _ 48-902.04, Phencyclidine, Cocaine, Methadone, Morphine, or one of its active metabolites or analogs.

(c) A person violating any provision of _ 50-2206.11 or _ 50-2206.12 when the person has 2 or more prior offenses under _ 50-2206.11, _ 50-2206.12, or _ 50-2206.14 and is being sentenced on the current offense shall be fined not less than $2,500 and not more than $10,000, or incarcerated for not more than one year, or both; provided, that a 15-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed, and in addition:

(1) A 20-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s alcohol concentration was at least 0.20 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath, or was at least 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of urine; or

(2) A 25-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s alcohol concentration was more than 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath or 0.32 grams per 100 milliliters of urine; or

(3) A 30-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s alcohol concentration was more than 0.30 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath or 0.39 grams per 100 milliliters of urine; and

(4) A 25-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed if the person’s blood or urine contains a Schedule I chemical or controlled substance as defined in _ 48-902.04, Phencyclidine, Cocaine, Methadone, Morphine, or one of its active metabolites or analogs.

 (d) An additional 30-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed for each additional violation of any one or more provisions of _ 50-2206.11 or _ 50-2206.12 if the person has 3 prior offenses under _ 50-2206.11, _ 50-2206.12, or _ 50-2206.14 and is being sentenced on the current offense.

 (e) The fines set forth in this section shall not be limited by _ 22-3571.01.

OWI: Operating While Impaired: In order to be convicted of OWI, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were operating or in physical control of a vehicle and that your ability to do so was impaired by alcohol or drugs.

OWI Penalties:  Here is the complete OWI statute in Washington, DC:

50-2206.15 Penalty for operating a vehicle while impaired

(a) Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, a person violating _ 50-2206.14 shall upon conviction for the first offense be fined $500, or incarcerated for not more than 90 days, or both.

(b) A person violating any provision of _ 50-2206.14 when the person has a prior offense under _ 50-2206.11, _ 50-2206.12, or _ 50-2206.14 and is being sentenced on the current offense shall be fined not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,500, or incarcerated for not more than one year, or both; provided, that a 5-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed.

(c) A person violating any provision of _ 50-2206.14 when the person has 2 or more prior offenses under _ 50-2206.11, _ 50-2206.12, or _ 50-2206.14 and is being sentenced on the current offense shall be fined not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000, or incarcerated for not more than one year, or both; provided, that a 10-day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration shall be imposed.

(d) The fines set forth in this section shall not be limited by _ 22-3571.01.

REVOCATION OF DRIVER’S LICENSE

In addition to court penalties, a DUI or OWI can result in the suspension of your driving privileges.  If you are arrested in Washington, DC for DUI or OWI, and live in DC, you must request a hearing from the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days of your arrest (15 if you live outside DC).  If you do not request a timely hearing, your license is automatically suspended for 6 months.  If you refused to submit a breath or urine sample, your license will be suspended for 1 year.

TOTAL DEDICATION

If you were arrested for DUI, then you must act quickly and contact a lawyer. Your driving privileges may become immediately suspended before you even make it to court unless you act quickly.

Please contact us for more information about your case so that we may determine the best course of action.

You can count on our total dedication to you. With The Law Office of Miguel A. Serrano on your side, you will have an attorney directly available to you.  Contact us at 202-330-6290 or info@serranolegal.com for a free initial consultation if you were arrested.