CRIMINAL DRIVING OFFENSES
There are three different forms of the criminal offense typically referred to as “drunk driving” in Washington, D.C. All three forms require the prosecution to prove that the defendant “operated” or was in “physical control” of the vehicle. Where they differ is with respect to the second element of the offense: impaired driving through intoxication.
Limited to intoxication by alcohol, driving while intoxicated (DWI) potentially carries the most serious penalties depending on the results of a blood, breath or urine test. If the prosecution can prove operation or physical control and if it can introduce admissible results of a chemical test demonstrating that the driver’s blood alcohol content was over 0.08 grams per deciliter, the burden has been met. Intoxication is assumed, and there is no need to prove that the defendant’s driving was impaired in any way as a result of the intoxication.
Covering both drugs and alcohol, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is similar to DWI. The prosecution again needs to prove operation or physical control. However, without a per se assumption of intoxication through admission of a chemical test, the prosecution is required to prove impaired driving ability as a result of drug or alcohol consumption.
Under the final form of the offense, Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), a person can be found guilty of violating the statute if his or her driving ability is impaired by any amount of alcohol. While this is an easier case for the prosecution to prove, there are also reduced penalties associated with the offense.
There are two different ways for the prosecution to secure a conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Virginia. In both cases, the prosecution must also prove that the defendant was driving or operating a motor vehicle.
The first way is to prove that the defendant had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more by weight by volume or 0.08 grams or more per 210 liters of breath. This is what is often referred to as DWI per se. In other words, the prosecution does not need to prove that the defendant’s driving was impaired in any way. Impaired driving will be presumed through the introduction of admissible chemical test results.
The second way, often referred to as driving under the influence (DUI), is for the prosecution to prove that the defendant was operating the vehicle under the influence of either alcohol, drugs or some combination thereof.
For further information on DWI, DUI, or OWI cases in both Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia, please click here.