Washington D.C., also referred to as the District of Columbia and D.C. is not a state but it does govern with a set of its own criminal laws. The laws that control in D.C. differ from the laws in the states surrounding it, Virginia and Maryland.
If you are faced with a criminal charge in Washington, D.C., you should educate yourself about the D.C. criminal justice system. Learn what the difference is between a misdemeanor and a felony, what the penalties are for driving while under the influence, and more.
Washington, D.C. has three main classifications of criminal offenses. From serious to least severe, these classifications are:
Simply put, this system allows for crimes to be grouped by severity, while also dictating the minimum and maximum penalties associated with each level. A number of states further group felonies and misdemeanors by classes or degrees, but the District of Columbia does not. Instead, criminal charges and criminal offenses are assigned fixed penalties according to the district’s criminal law.
The District of Columbia considers operating while intoxicated (OWI), driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) to be separate offenses.
So, what’s the difference?
OWI: A driver also can be charged with operating while intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of lower than .05%. Slurring, visible impairment, and failed roadside sobriety testing are among the evidence required for a charge of OWI.
DUI: Applies to anyone charged with driving a vehicle with a BAC level of .05% and .08%. Note that a BAC level within the DUI range implies impairment.
DWI: Applies to a person having a BAC of .08% or higher.
Penalties for driving drunk in D.C. range from fines of $300-$1,000, up to 90 days in jail, and a license revocation of six months on first offense to fines of $2,000-$10,000, up to one year in jail, and license revocation for two years on a third offense.
An entire process is set in motion once police officers have made an arrest and proceed with their criminal investigation. Law enforcement may pursue criminal charges. The char which will classify the severity of the alleged crime and the associated penalties. All criminal charges and criminal cases are serious and have many different repercussions, involving more than a criminal record. Criminal convictions can affect employment, housing, financial aid and many other aspects of life. Hiring legal representation, or having a public defender appointed, is essential to mounting a solid defense and getting a potential acquittal.
Keep the following suggestions in mind as you evaluate hiring a D.C. criminal defense lawyer. Evaluate the following to determine the appropriate legal representation for your criminal matter:
You become an advocate for yourself when you take the time to educate yourself on the criminal justice system. At the very least, you become an active participant in the process, and may be able to contribute to your own criminal defense through your criminal defense attorney.
An arrest and conviction can change everything. Fines or time in jail are the immediate concern, but a conviction will also mean a criminal record that can make it harder to find a job and housing for years to come. If you are arrested or learn you are under investigation, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights, lay out your options, and help you determine the best way to proceed with mounting a defense and limiting potential penalties.