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DUI Legal Process in D.C.

In Washington D.C., the DUI process consists of an administrative hearing and a criminal case in the D.C. Superior Court. The administrative hearing is held by the DMV and determines whether the driver will lose his/her license, whether high-risk insurance is required, and whether any fines will be imposed. The criminal case will determine whether the driver will be convicted of the DWI/DUI/OWI charge as well as the corresponding penalty.

After being arrested for DUI/DWO/OWI, there is a short time period to request a hearing to prevent a driver’s license from being suspended pending the outcome of the criminal case. The period is five days from the time the driver receives an Official Notice of Proposed Suspension to request a hearing, if the driver is licensed in Washington D.C. An out of state driver is given 10 days. Failure to request a hearing within the allowed time will result in automatic suspension.

After the driver is released from custody and before the criminal case begins, the Attorney General will file formal charges against the driver. Then, the process typically consists of arraignment, pretrial hearings and meetings such as discovery meetings, status hearings, suppression hearings. Lastly, the actual trial takes place if a plea agreement has not been reached.

At the arraignment, the charges are formally read to the driver and into the record. The driver then is given an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. If the driver pleads not guilty, the case proceeds and a trial date will be set. At the various pretrial hearings and conferences, the parties will appear before a judge to discuss the status of the case, issues with discovery, and any possible issues with scheduling. During the pretrial conference, it is very likely that the defense attorney and the prosecutor will attempt to negotiate a plea agreement. When a suppression hearing is held, it is most often the case that the defense attorney has made a motion to suppress evidence. At this hearing the judge will rule as to whether the evidence in question is admissible in trial.

Defendant’s accused of DUI/DWI have right to a jury trial in Washington D.C., although some offenders due obtain bench trials where the judge decides the case without a jury. Following the trial, whether it be a jury or bench trial, the verdict is entered. If the defendant is found guilty, the case proceeds to sentencing. If he/she is not guilty, all charges will be dismissed. A defendant found guilty of DUI/DWI is entitled to request an appeal to review the decision, but the appeal must be made in a timely manner or the right will be considered to have been waived.


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