The District of Columbia has zero-tolerance drunk driving
The Sobering Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
in 2004 there were 43 traffic fatalities in the District
of Columbia. Twenty-eight percent of those involved a blood
alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.
However, this figure reflects a 56% drop in alcohol-related
crashes from the previous year. This is thanks to efforts
by the District Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan
Police Department's drunk-driving safety checkpoints and
Alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents kill someone every
31 minutes and cause nonfatal injures every 20 minutes.
During 2004, alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes accounted
for 39% of the traffic-related deaths in the United States.
And finally, the NHTSA estimates that each year, alcohol-related
crashes in this country cost individuals and taxpayers about
We've all seen these eye-opening statistics before, but
it bears repeating here: Drunk driving kills. Each intoxicated
person who gets behind the wheel takes into his hands not
only his life, but the lives of everyone else he'll encounter
on the road.
Always appoint a designated driver when you go out to social
occasions where alcohol will be part of the festivities.
Otherwise, simply calling a cab when you've had too much
to drink will prevent trouble and heartache later.
In addition to the legal penalties briefly outlined below,
in the District of Columbia if you are stopped by an MPD
officer and arrested for drunk driving (or driving under
the influence of drugs), you will be assessed 12 points
on your license. This means an automatic 90-day suspension
of your driving privileges. The same penalty applies to
drivers under the age of 21 who are caught with any measurable
amount of alcohol in their breath, blood, or urine.
What Is Drunk Driving, Exactly?
DWI is defined as "driving while intoxicated."
This means having a BAC of 0.08% or higher (or the equivalent
breath or urine measure). For a driver under age 21, this
is defined as having ANY measurable alcohol in his blood,
breath, or urine.
• DUI is defined as "driving under the influence"
of alcohol or drugs. This can apply even if your BAC is
below 0.08% if it can be shown that you were impaired.
Penalties for a DUI/DWI Conviction
Because driving while intoxicated can be so deadly, the
penalties are quite severe. Remember that a DWI or DUI is
a criminal offense, not a traffic ticket. It's handled by
the police and the courts rather than your friendly neighborhood
DMV. If you don't learn your lesson the first time, the
penalties will increase in order to keep you off the road.
The penalty for the first DWI/DUI offense is a fine of $300
and up to 90 days in jail. For a blood alcohol level of
at least 0.20% but not more than 0.25%, the madatory minimum
sentence is five days behind bars. If the level is more
than 0.25% by weight of alcohol, the mandatory minimum sentence
is 10 days. In any case, your driver's license will be revoked
for six months.
If the second DUI offense occurs within 15 years of the
first one, then the fine can be anywhere between $1,000
and $5,000, and the jail sentence can be from five days
to one year. According to the law, jail time can't be suspended
by a sympathetic judge?it's mandatory. There is an additional
30 days of community service required, and as the blood
alcohol level increases, so increases the minimum jail sentence.
Also, you will lose your license for one year.
Third and Subsequent Offenses
If the third or subsequent conviction for DUI occurs within
15 years of the second offense, the fine is $2,000 to $10,000,
and you'll face mandatory prison time of 10 days to one
year. On top of an additional 60 days of community service,
your license will be revoked for two years.
A DUI arrest will result in an automatic suspension of your
driving privileges?whether or not you are later convicted
of the crime in court. This is in addition to the lengthy
revocation you will be faced with after a conviction.
To get your license reinstated after a suspension, you must
wait for the suspension period to expire and pay a reinstatement
fee. You can't get back a license that was revoked, however.
Instead, you must apply for a brand-new license?and only
after a hearing has been held to determine whether you are
eligible to be allowed back behind the wheel.