Penalties of a DUI in Washington, D.C.

Updated on February 25th, 2022 at 08:48 pm

What’s so bad about getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol? It’s not just that you’re putting yourself and others at risk for injury or death. In some jurisdictions, you’ll also be putting your driver’s license and maybe even your freedom on the line.

The laws on drinking and driving differ from place to place. In some states, alcohol concentration is measured by blood-alcohol content or blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Other places use breathalyzers or urine tests instead. And some localities take a more hands-off approach and just rely on the old standard of driving under the influence (DUI).

Regardless of which state you’re in, if your Blood Alcohol Concentration measures over a certain limit, expect to lose some freedom. The more concentration you have of alcohol in your system, the stronger the penalties can be. But even at lower levels, a DUI can prevent you from going to work in the morning, so it’s crucial to know what steps can help you avoid a conviction.

The consequences of a DUI conviction vary by state law and how many offenses you’ve had in the past. You might have your license suspended or revoked. You could be fined heavily and go to jail for a while. Repeat offenders can expect to do some serious time behind bars and pay even larger fines, though judges have discretion here.

It is common knowledge that people should not drive when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol because of the serious harm that one can cause to themselves and others if they get behind the wheel in an inebriated state.

The messages in advertisements and speeches given by political leaders warn us that the consequences of driving under the influence can be horrific, but there is very little clear information about what exactly could happen in terms of the law and judicial reach.

A driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol is subject to:


  • Civil liabilities – The civil liability imposed by law may include punitive damages, pain and suffering, destruction of property, injury, medical expenses and lost wages.
  • Administrative penalties and fines – An individual could be subject to administrative penalties such as suspension or revocation of driving privileges or expensive fines such as a $5,000 fine if they were previously convicted of a DUI offense within five years.
  • Criminal penalties including punishment for DUI offenses in Washington D.C. – The criminal consequences could turn into a minimum sentence of jail time or even an ignition interlock device depending on the circumstances surrounding the violation. The jail term is usually six months or less depending on whether they have been driving with a suspended license.


On the other hand, if the driver was found to be consuming alcohol or under the influence of a controlled substance and caused death or serious injury to another person, they may be charged with vehicular manslaughter which could land them behind bars for up to 10 years.

Penalties of a DUI


  • First time offenders of an impaired Driving Offense have the lightest penalties and are subject to $1000 fine, or jail time not to exceed 180 days, or both;
  • Second offense DUI: imprisonment for not more than two years and $2,500 fine;
  • Third offense DUI: mandatory minimum sentence of jail time of not less than ten days nor more than 30 days of jail time or $250 to $5,000 fine, or both;
  • Fourth offense DUI: up to one year of jail time and $5,000 fine;
  • Fifth offense DUI: mandatory minimum jail time of not less than 90 days nor more than 180 days or $1,000 to $10,000 fine, or both;
  • Sixth offense DUI: include a maximum sentence of imprisonment for not more than three years and  $1,000 to $5,000 fine.


Zero Tolerance Law For Underage

First, if one is under 21 years of age, Washington DC has a zero-tolerance policy, so anything over .00% BAC is considered over the limit. So be prepared for additional penalties like reckless driving.

Legal Blood Alcohol Limits In Washington D.C.

If someone is over the age of 21, the legal limit to get behind the wheel of a vehicle is 0.08% BAC. If someone is driving a commercial vehicle, the legal limit is 0.04% BAC.

*These numbers vary slightly throughout the United States, but only very little.

Blood Alcohol Concentration Testing

If one gets pulled over, a series of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are conducted by the police officer on site and then additional tests are conducted once back at the police station.
In Washington D.C. one can refuse to take a blood or breath test, but Washington DC has an implied consent law meaning that the DMV can suspend their driver’s license without the chemical test or if the chemical test shows a score above the legal limit.

BAC testing is important because alcoholic beverages or rather your body dealing with some of alcohol’s active metabolites can have a big impact on one’s ability to drive a motor vehicle. Even small amounts of alcohol or its active metabolites degrade one’s decision-making ability and the ability to see the road clearly, making it more difficult for a driver to react to a situation. Alcohol consumption can also influence how a person speaks and makes decisions while driving.

If you’re charged with drinking and driving and want to protect your criminal record, get a lawyer immediately if possible. The earlier you seek legal advice, the better your chance of avoiding a conviction and minimizing the damage. If you are arrested for driving under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol in Washington DC, you should hire experienced Driving Under the influence of alcohol criminal defense attorneys who can help challenge the arrest and protect your rights through any proceedings that follow. A good lawyer will act as your legal counsel during court proceedings and gather evidence to help you in court.

Prior Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol Conviction

One of the main issues that the court considers when addressing these three areas is how many prior alcohol related offenses the individual has. Knowing the personal history of the individual informs the court on the sentencing parameters.

For a first offense, an individual can receive up a criminal charge in which the term of incarceration shall be to 180 days in jail, up to $1000 in fines, and 6-month license revocation. All subsequent offenses are also criminal offenses and carry a monetary penalty.

For the second offense, the individual can receive up to 1 year in jail with a minimum mandatory sentence of at least 10 days in jail, between $2,500 and $5,000 in fines and a year license suspension.

For the third driving under the influence offense, the individual can face up to one year in jail with a minimum mandatory jail time of at least 15 days, between $2,500 and $10,000 in fines, and a two-year license suspension under § 50-2206.13.

The Department of Motor Vehicle will impose a license suspension if convicted or entering a plea of guilty to a DUI or OWI in  Washington D.C.. The DC superior court can suspend all of the sentences outside the mandatory sentence and impose a supervised or unsupervised probation period.

A Criminal defense lawyer The Law Firm of Bruckheim & Patel can be your source for all things related to driving in Washington DC. Whether you need the latest information on Washington DC traffic laws, penalties, and fines, or you need help making sense of insurance claims and legal scenarios, we’ve got you covered. Let us help clarify the legal information and fines for your unique situation.

Your life after a DUI charge will not be easy. You’ll face fines, mandatory jail time, higher insurance rates, and other serious consequences on your driving ability and freedom, like the maximum penalty. When you need representation in court, you must hire someone that understands DUI charges in Washington DC. For a free consultation of your case, call us at 202-930-3464.

Attorney at Bruckheim & Patel

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