DUI/OWI Laws in Washington D.C.

Laws and penalties for DUI/OWI in D.C.

In the District of Columbia (D.C.), you can get a DUI if you operate or are in physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher, regardless of whether your driving ability was actually impaired. However, you can get a DUI for operating or being in physical control of a vehicle while impaired to an “appreciable degree” as the result of ingesting alcohol or drugs, or any combination of these. You can also be convicted of a less serious offense (a "lesser included offense" of a DUI) called “operating while impaired” (OWI) for operating or being in physical control of a vehicle while impaired “in a way that can be perceived or noticed” as the result of ingesting alcohol, drugs, or any combination of the two.

(Check out the BAC chart for an estimate of how many drinks it takes to get to the legal limit.)

And the law in the D.C. says that if you’re operating or in physical control of a vehicle, you have given consent to submit to a chemical test for the purpose of determining the amount of alcohol in your blood. Here are some details on the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test in D.C. and other details about D.C. DUI/OWI law.

In the D.C., what are the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test (usually a breathalyzer or blood test) when suspected of DUI/OWI?

Here are the consequences for not taking a breathalyzer or blood test in D.C., broken out by whether this is your first, second, or third offense:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

1 year license suspension

1 year license suspension

1 year license suspension

In D.C., when do police have to measure your BAC?

In D.C., law enforcement officers are supposed to measure your BAC at the time of driving. However, prosecutors may be able to prove your culpability for DUI even if your BAC is taken later than this time.

What is the maximum BAC for drivers under 21 in D.C.?

In D.C., the maximum BAC for drivers who are under 21 (considered minors under some drinking and driving laws) is 0%. D.C. is a "zero tolerance" jurisdiction.

What are the minimum jail times for a DUI/OWI in D.C.?

Here are the minimum jail times for a DUI in D.C., broken out by whether this is your first, second, or third offense:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

No minimum required jail term, unless BAC is measured at .20% or higher, in which case 10 days jail is required (15 days if .25% or higher or blood contains certain drugs, and 20 days if .30% or higher)

10 days jail, plus 15 days if BAC is measured at .20% or higher, 20 days if .25% or higher or blood contains certain drugs, and 25 days if .30% or higher

15 days jail, plus 20 days if BAC is measured at .20% or higher, 25 days if .25% or higher or blood contains certain drugs, and 30 days if .30% or higher

How long will prior DWI convictions remain relevant for sentencing purposes in D.C.?

In D.C., prior DUI and OWI convictions stay on your record (and can be counted against you when you are being sentenced for another DUI/OWI offense) for 15 years.

Can a DUI be “pleaded down” to a "wet reckless" in the District of Columbia?

In D.C., it’s possible for a driver who’s accused of driving under the influence to “plea bargain” for a lesser charge. When a DUI is plea bargained down to a reckless driving charge, it’s sometimes called a “wet reckless.”

(Read more about plea bargaining in Washington D.C. DUI cases and the consequences of a reckless driving conviction.)

Are ignition interlock devices (IIDs) required for convicted DUI/OWI offenders in D.C.?

No, but a driver might be able to reduce the duration of a alcohol or drug related license suspension by participating in a IID program.

Where can I get more information about DUI/OWI laws in D.C.?

Nolo's DUI/DWI topic has many helpful articles, including a Drunk Driving, DUI, and DWI FAQ. For more help after a DUI/DWI/OWI arrest, see Nolo's Lawyer Directory, where you can view in-depth profiles of D.C. DWI attorneys in your area.

Last updated on 02/12/2016.

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