DWI, DUI and OWI in D.C.

new D.C. law, which took effect on August 1, 2012, has increased penalties for people convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving under the influence (DUI), and operating while impaired (OWI).  For example, the penalty for first-time offenders has gone up from a maximum fine of $300 and 90 days in jail to a $1,000 fine and 180 days of incarceration.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

The prosecution needs to prove two things to secure a conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in D.C.  First, it needs to prove that the defendant was “operating” or in “physical control” of the vehicle.  This means that the defendant doesn’t have to be actually driving the car.  Sitting at the wheel with the keys in the ignition, for example, could be enough for the court to infer operation or physical control.

Second, the prosecution needs to prove that, at the time of testing, the blood alcohol concentration of the person operating the car was 0.08 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or greater.  Unlike the related offense of driving under the influence, the prosecution does not need to prove impaired driving through intoxication. D.C. Code 50-2201.05(b).

The penalty for a first conviction of DWI is a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail (all of which can be suspended).  However, if the blood alcohol concentration of the defendant at the time of testing is 0.20 grams or greater per 100 milliliters of blood, there is a 10 day mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment.  There is a mandatory 15-day jail term in the case of a test result above 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of blood and a 20-day jail-term for a test result above 0.30.  

The penalty for a second conviction within a 15-year period is a $2,500 – $5,000 fine and a sentence of up to a year, with at least 10 days that cannot be suspended.  If the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.25 grams or greater per 100 milliliters of blood during the second arrest, there is at least 15 days days of mandatory imprisonment.  There is a mandatory 20 day jail term in the case of a test result above 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of blood and a 25-day jail-term for a test result above 0.30.  

The penalty for a third or subsequent conviction within a 15-year period is a fine of $2,500-$10,000 and a mandatory 15-day period of incarceration.  If the blood alcohol concentration at third or subsequent is at least 0.20 grams per 100 milliliters of blood, the defendant is subject to a 20 day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration.  There is a mandatory 25 day jail term in the case of a test result above 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of blood and a 30-day jail-term for a test result above 0.30.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

There are two elements to the DUI offense.  First, the prosecution needs to prove that the defendant was “operating” or in “physical control” of the vehicle.  Second, the prosecution needs to prove that the defendant’s ability to operate or control the vehicle was impaired as a result of either drug or alcohol intoxication.  D.C. Code 50-2201.05(b).

The penalty for a first conviction of DWI is a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail (all of which can be suspended).  However, if the blood alcohol concentration of the defendant at the time of testing is 0.20 grams or greater per 100 milliliters of blood, there is a 10 day mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment.  There is a mandatory 15-day jail term in the case of a test result above 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of blood and a 20-day jail-term for a test result above 0.30.

The penalty for a second conviction within a 15-year period is a $2,500 – $5,000 fine and a sentence of up to a year, with at least 10 days that cannot be suspended.  If the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.25 grams or greater per 100 milliliters of blood during the second arrest, there is at least 15 days days of mandatory imprisonment.  There is a mandatory 20 day jail term in the case of a test result above 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of blood and a 25-day jail-term for a test result above 0.30.

The penalty for a third or subsequent conviction within a 15-year period is a fine of $2,500-$10,000 and a mandatory 15-day period of incarceration.  If the blood alcohol concentration at third or subsequent is at least 0.20 grams per 100 milliliters of blood, the defendant is subject to a 20 day mandatory-minimum term of incarceration.  There is a mandatory 25 day jail term in the case of a test result above 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of blood and a 30-day jail-term for a test result above 0.30.

Operating While Impaired (OWI)

OWI is the easiest of the so-called “drunk driving” offenses for the prosecution to prove. After all, the prosecution only needs to prove is that the defendant’s ability to operate a vehicle was noticeably impaired by the consumption of “intoxicating liquor.”

At the same time, OWI also carries the lightest penalties. A first conviction carries a $500 fine and a maximum sentence of 90 days.  A second conviction within a 15-year time period carries a $1,000 – $2,500 fine and incarceration of up to a year, 5 days of which cannot be suspended.  A third or subsequent offense within a 15 year period carries a $1000-$5000 fine and a 10-day to one year sentence, with a mandatory minimum of 10 days.  D.C. Code 50-2201.05(b).