District of Columbia DUI Laws

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The District of Columbia’s DUI laws state that any driver over the age of 21 cannot have a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher. Commercial drivers cannot have a blood-alcohol level exceeding 0.02%. Drivers under 21 cannot have any alcohol in their system whatsoever.
Each year, over 10,000 people in the US are killed on the road as a result of drunk driving crashes.
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a dangerous crime and penalties vary by state or territory. Even a first-time offense can cost drivers up to $10,000 in fines and legal fees—and it will most certainly impact your car insurance rates, too.
The car insurance comparison and broker app Jerry has compiled everything you need to know about DUI laws in the District of Columbia.
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What is a DUI?

A DUI refers to driving under the influence while a DWI means driving while intoxicated or impaired. In the District of Columbia, a driver could get a DUI for operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.07% or lower if an officer determines via a field sobriety test that the driver is too impaired to drive.
A driver could get a DWI if they have a BAC of 0.08% or higher, in which case a field sobriety test is not needed to determine that the driver is too intoxicated to drive.
A DUI could mean the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination. Drugs in this instance do not mean specifically illegal substances and can include marijuana, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications. If taking these drugs impairs you in any way while driving, you may be charged with a DUI.
The District of Columbia also uses the term OWI or operating while impaired. An OWI only requires proof that the driver’s ability to operate is notably affected by drugs or alcohol, and carries lower fines and penalties than a DUI/DWI.
Key Takeaway There are several levels of penalties if a driver is found to be driving while impaired depending on the driver’s BAC or level of impairment.

DUI in the District of Columbia

In the District of Columbia, it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher if you’re 21 or older. It is illegal for drivers to operate commercial vehicles with a blood-alcohol level of 0.04% or higher.
If you’re under the age of 21, there can be no trace of alcohol in your bloodstream whatsoever. The District of Columbia has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking. Any driver under the age of 21 found with any trace of alcohol whatsoever will be charged with a DWI.
Importantly, the vehicle does not have to be in motion as a requirement of a DUI. As long as an intoxicated driver is in a position of physical control in the vehicle, they can still be convicted of a DUI.
If you’re pulled over for a suspected DUI, your blood alcohol does not necessarily have to exceed the minimum threshold for you to be convicted of driving under the influence. If you demonstrate impaired behavior, regardless of your BAC, you may still be convicted of a DUI.
Key takeaways Though the legal threshold is 0.08% BAC for adult drivers, you could be convicted of a DUI if you demonstrate impaired behavior.
Like the states, the District of Columbia has an implied consent law stipulating that you consent to be tested if you’re suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If you’re lawfully arrested for a DUI in the District of Columbia, you must submit to a urine, blood, or breath test. Drivers who refuse to do so are subject to license revocation for at least one year. You do not have a right to consult with a lawyer before completing the test.

Penalties for DUI in the District of Columbia

Penalties for DUIs are severe in the District of Columbia. The conviction will remain on your driving record for 10 years. It cannot be expunged.

First conviction

PenaltyDescription
Fine$500 to $1,500
Jail180 days maximum
License suspension6 months
Vehicle impoundmentYes
Ignition interlock device requiredYes
SR-22 requirementYes
If there are passengers under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of the offense, there are additional penalties—including higher fines and longer jail sentences—depending on how many passengers are in the car.
A diversion agreement may be offered if you are prosecuted for DUI. By agreeing to a series of requirements, such as fees, community service, and treatment, you may have the DUI charges reduced to a lesser violation.

Subsequent convictions

After your first conviction, you’ll be subject to increased penalties, including longer license suspension for all subsequent offenses.
Key Takeaway Minimum penalties are often increased if you had a high blood-alcohol concentration or if you’ve had previous offenses.
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Does a DUI impact car insurance in the District of Columbia?

Yes, insurance companies take DUIs very seriously, and you’ll be classified as a high-risk driver. With a DUI on your record, you can reasonably expect that insurance carriers will either charge you significantly higher rates or may refuse to insure you entirely.
That’s where Jerry can help. In less than 45 seconds, Jerry collects your information from your existing insurer. Choose from competitive quotes from up to 50 top insurance companies and Jerry takes care of the rest—securing your new policy and helping you cancel your old one.
The insurance company you ultimately sign with will also need to file an SR-22 on your behalf to confirm that you hold the district-mandated minimum insurance.

Other effects of a DUI

Beyond the conviction penalties and higher insurance rates, DUIs can have some other lasting impacts on your life.
License revocation: After a DUI, you run the risk of having your license revoked if you’re charged with other serious offenses.
Ignition interlock device: All states have some type of ignition interlock program, requiring drivers convicted of a DUI to install an interlock device in their vehicle to disable the engine if alcohol is detected on their breath.
Background checks: Your DUI will show up on a background check for up to five years after the conviction, which can cause issues for future employment endeavors.

How to find cheap insurance after a DUI

Finding affordable insurance after a DUI conviction can be difficult on your own. No matter what your record looks like, Jerry can help. A licensed broker, Jerry does all the hard work of finding the cheapest quotes from the top name-brand insurance companies and buying new car insurance. Jerry will even help you cancel your old policy.
When your policy is up for renewal, Jerry will send you new quotes—so you’re always paying the best price.
“I’ve gotten pulled over a few times in the past. With Jerry, the police never had an issue verifying my insurance. The app is convenient, easy, and cheap!” —Dalton T.
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