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Washington D.C. DUI Laws

Washington D.C. has three types of intoxicated driving offenses: DWI, DUI, and OWI (Operating while impaired). DWI is the act of operating or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while one’s blood alcohol level (or breath or urine equivalent) is 0.08% or above. If the driver is under 21, a blood alcohol level of any measurable amount will be deemed driving while intoxicated.

DUI is the act of operating or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This means that a person has a BAC of 0.05% or above or is impaired by alcohol or drugs to an “appreciable degree.”

OWI is the act of operating or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while one is so affected by the consumption of alcohol that it impaired his/her ability to operate a motor vehicle in the same way a reasonably prudent driver, not so impaired, would operate a vehicle in similar circumstances.

All DWI/DUI/OWI offenses are misdemeanors in Washington D.C.There are no category for DUI felony regardless of the amount of DUI convictions. However, if the situation that led to the DUI conviction resulted in the death or injury of others, there could be other criminal charges that may qualify as felony offenses.

In Washington D.C., a person can be arrested for DWI/DUI/OWI for two reasons. The first is if a person is driving and appears to be drunk based on his/her driving pattern, physical appearance, and/or performance on any field sobriety tests. In essence, this reasoning for arrest is based on circumstantial evidence, evidence in which an inference is needed to connect a fact and a conclusion. In an intoxicated driving situation, a police officer after noticing behavior associated with being intoxicated while driving, will infer that a person is in fact intoxicated and driving a vehicle. Therefore, although each officer has discretion in making an arrest, it is very possible, and even very likely, that a person can and will be arrested for failing a field sobriety test or simply appearing to be intoxicated

A person can also be arrested based on blood alcohol tests alone. If after submitting the required chemical test, his/her blood alcohol content is 0.05% or more, and the person is over 21, then the person can be arrested. If the person is under 21, then any measurable blood alcohol content will allow for arrest. It is also possible to be arrested if a person is so affected by the consumption of alcohol that his/her driving ability is impaired. A police officer even has the discretion to arrest a person for a blood alcohol content as low as 0.01%.

It is also important to note that a District of Columbia appellate court recently allowed for the arrest and conviction of a bicyclist who was riding his bicycle under the influence.


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