Washington D.C. OWI/DUI Laws and Penalties

How the District of Columbia defines "driving under the influence" and "operating while impaired" and the penalties each offense carries.

In Washington D.C., a motorist can get a DUI for driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while "under the influence" or a DWI (driving while intoxicated) for driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more. A driver who is less able to exercise the clear judgement necessary for operation of a vehicle is considered to be "under the influence."

Alternatively, a driver can be charged with operating while impaired (OWI)—a less serious offense—if he or she is just noticeably affected by drugs or alcohol.

Jail Time and Fines for Washington D.C. DUI/DWI Convictions

The mandatory and possible penalties for a DUI are dependent on the number of prior DUI, DWI, and OWIs the offender has that occurred within the last 15 years. The judge generally has discretion in whether to impose a fine, jail time, or both, but jail time is required for second and subsequent offenses.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense (felony)

Jail Time

Up to 180 days

10 days to 1 year

15 days to 1 year



$2,500 to $5,000

$2,500 to $10,000

Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

6 months

1 year

2 years

Elevated BAC. A driver with high BAC may face additional jail time. A driver with a BAC of:

  • .20% or more will serve an additional five days in jail
  • .25% or more will serve an additional ten days in jail, and
  • .30% or more will serve an additional 15 days in jail.

Illegal drugs. Drivers who test positive for illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine will serve an additional ten days in jail.

Jail Time and Fines for Washington D.C. OWI Convictions

Sentencing for an OWI conviction is somewhat more lenient than for a DUI conviction.

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense-felony

Jail Time

Up to 90 days

5 days to 1 year

10 days to 1 year



$1,000 to $2.500

$1,000 to $5,000


6 months

1 year

2 years

Implied Consent and Refusing a Blood or Breath Test in Washington D.C.

Pursuant to Washington D.C. statute, any person driving within Washington D.C. is considered to have given consent to a chemical test of their breath, blood, or other bodily substance to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs. This is called the "implied consent" law, and motorists who withdraw consent and refuse to submit to lawfully requested tests will have their driver's license revoked for one year. The fact that the driver refused testing can also be used at trial to prove a DUI charge. A driver with prior offenses who refuses testing will be presumed to be under the influence.


Some DUI or OWI charges are eligible for diversion or plea negotiation. The prosecutor may offer a diversion program, wherein the charges would be dismissed on the condition that the offender complete treatment, pay certain fees, complete community service, or other similar requirements. And in some cases, it might be possible to get a DUI or OWI charge reduced to a less serious charge, such as reckless driving (sometimes called a "wet reckless").

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