Degree of Alcohol Impairment as DUI/OWI Defense in D.C.

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D.C. state law currently makes it illegal for any person to operate a vehicle while intoxicated (known as “OWI”) or while under the influence of alcohol or any drug, or a combination of both, also known as “DUI”. Both crimes fall under separate subparagraphs of D.C. Code Sec. 50-2201-05 and are considered distinct offenses, requiring that the government prove certain elements before a defendant can be convicted.

Standard of Proof for DUI/OWI 

When a defendant is arrested and charged for DUI and OWI, a defense attorney may examine all evidence to determine among other things, whether the evidence of impairment to operate a motor vehicle meets the standard of impairment that the law requires for a conviction. 

The standard of impairment for both crimes is the same such that in a recent case, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled that a conviction for OWI may be inconsistent when the same defendant was acquitted of DUI on the same set of circumstances due to insufficient proof of ‘appreciable impairment’. 

A prosecution for OWI or operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated requires proof of a specific alcohol concentration in the defendant’s blood or corresponding concentrations in the breath or urine of the defendant. 

Absent evidence of such alcohol levels beyond the statutory limit, prosecution must be able to prove that defendant suffered from an ‘appreciable degree’ of impairment, which is a higher standard than being impaired ‘in any way’, in order to convict for OWI as well as DUI. The appellate court ultimately reversed the conviction for OWI and remanded the case for further proceedings. 

Importance of Criminal Defense Attorney

D.C.’s DUI and OWI laws and case law are highly complex matters. If you are charged with either DUI or OWI, an experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate your case, represent you before law enforcement agencies or in court, and raise all DUI/OWI defenses appropriate in your case.

In Washington, D.C., our attorneys at the law firm of Lotze & Mosley LLP have years of proven experience and have handled more than 100 criminal cases for clients. We aggressively investigate every case that we handle, weigh the evidence, raise all possible DUI/OWI defenses, negotiate for diversion eligibility or reduced charges, and pursue cases to trial with positive results. 

Our attorneys welcome your call today at (202) 393-0535 for an evaluation of your situation.