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DUI Frequently Asked Questions in D.C.

How does underage DUI differ from regular DUI in Washington D.C.?

Washington D.C. has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drivers. Meaning that if a driver under the age of 21 and has any BAC, he/she can be convicted of DUI/DWI/OWI.  Anyone under 21 who drives with any measurable level of alcohol in their blood can be arrested and their license revoked for 6 to 12 months. They will also be fined up to $300. The court may also order the underage driver’s license to be suspended for 90 days for the first conviction or revoked for one year for a subsequent conviction of any alcohol or drug-related offense, including possession and use, while driving, or a second offense of possessing or using alcohol by someone under 18, or changing or lying on your driver’s license. Apart from these added penalties, the underage driver can also be face the same penalties, as would a driver over 21, if they are convicted of DUI/DWI.

Prescription Drugs and DUI in Washington D.C:

It is possible to be arrested for DUII in Washington D.C. if the person is under the influence of prescription medication. If you are suspected of driving while impaired, but do not test positive for alcohol because you are impaired due to prescription drugs, then you can not be arrested/charged for DWI in Washington D.C. However you may be charged with DUI. The government is required to prove that the driver operated a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and that their ability to drive was impaired. This is accomplished through the same methods (chemical tests, FSTs, Officer’s observations) as if alcohol was the substance in question. The law does not take into account that the drug that caused the impairment was legally obtained by a prescription. It is also irrelevant whether the drug in question was available over the counter. If the medication causes side effects which impair a driver’s ability to drive, then he/she may be charged with DUI in D.C.

It is also worth noting that the law does not distinguish between prescription drugs or illegal drugs in the context of a DUI charge.

Can I be stopped and arrested for DWI even if the vehicle was not moving?

Maybe – D.C. ST §50-2205.02 states that a person can be charged for DWI if he/she is operating the vehicle or is in physical control of the vehicle and is intoxicated above the legal limit. Whether a person can be stopped/arrested while in non-moving vehicle largely depends on the factual circumstances of the specific case. For example, it is less likely that a person can be arrested for DWI if he/she, while intoxicated, was holding the steering wheel of a parked car without the keys in the ignition than a person who is also intoxicated and is first stopped at a red light and then stopped by a police officer due to a reasonable suspicion of intoxication. In the latter instance, it is clear that the person was in physical control of the vehicle, whereas in the former situation it is much more difficult to say that the person was in physical control of the vehicle.

Do I have to give a blood or urine sample?

No, but because of D.C. driver’s give implied consent, any refusal will result in immediate suspension of his/her license for one year. However it is also possible to object to a certain test based on religious of medical reasons

Do I have to submit to a field sobriety test?

No – Washington D.C. law does not require a driver to consent to field sobriety test.


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