Washington D.C. DUI/DWI Laws: FAQ

Is drinking and driving a crime in Washington D.C.?

It is not a crime to drink and drive. However you may not legally drive if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) has exceeded the maximum percentage allowed by District of Columbia law.

What terms are used for drunk driving offenses in Washington D.C.?

Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”) and Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI”) are considered separate offenses under District of Columbia law.

DWI applies to a person having a statutorily prohibited Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. By contrast, DUI applies to a person having a BAC of 0.07 percent or lower. A driver can be charged with a DUI offense if, in addition to a BAC reading, the officer has other signs of impairment from a structured field sobriety test and from observations of the suspect's driving behavior. Therefore, even at low levels of BAC, you can still be at risk.

What are the penalties for drunk driving in Washington D.C.?

First time DUI & DWI convictions carry the following penalties:

  • Fines ($300-$1,000),
  • Up to 90 days in jail, and
  • 6 months driver’s license revocation.

A 2nd DUI or DWI conviction may carry a harsher penalty including:

  • A fine of $1,000-$5,000,
  • Up to one year in jail, and
  • A driver’s license revocation of 1 year.

A 3rd DUI or DWI conviction may carry an even harsher penalty including:

  • A fine of $2,000-$10,000,
  • Up to one year in jail, and
  • A driver’s license revocation of 2 years.

The penalties for a drunk driver under age 21 include:

  • A minimum $300 fine and
  • 6 month driver’s license suspension.

Additionally, the penalties may be increased depending on unusually high BAC levels, whether the drunk driver caused personal injuries to another person, as well as other circumstances specific to individual cases.

Must I consent to a blood or urine test when pulled over for DWI in Washington D.C.?

Yes. The implied consent law in Washington DC deems that any person operating a motor vehicle within the District of Columbia agrees to provide chemical tests of their blood, urine or breath for the purpose of determining either blood alcohol content (BAC) or blood drug content. The arresting officer must have "reasonable grounds" to believe that the driver was operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you refuse a DUI / DWI test, your driver license will be suspended for up to 1 year on the first refusal.

What is the legal drinking limit for drivers under age 21 in the District of Columbia?

The District of Columbia employs a Zero Tolerance Policy. Persons under the age of 21 cannot purchase, consume, or possess any alcoholic beverages of any kind. If they are found to be operating a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol, they will be placed under arrest and charged with DWI—Driving While Intoxicated.

How do I get my driver’s license reinstated after a DUI or DWI conviction in Washington D.C.?

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. Then a hearing will be held to determine whether you are eligible for reinstatement.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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