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D.C. Criminal Defense Attorney Legal Blog

Friday, September 12, 2014

Washington DC Marijuana Decriminalization Law Overview

Marijuana reform has come to the District of Columbia; however, it is already a convoluted mess. As the law stands now, marijuana is not legal per se, but only decriminalized, other jurisdictions have experienced this same roadblock. What this means is that DC police can no longer arrest you for possessing under an ounce of marijuana. All they can do now is write you a ticket to the tune of $25.

As a DC Marijuana defense attorney, Thomas Lester knows that changes in the law can be confusing for citizens and police officers alike, particularly in the District.

Where this becomes tricky is that Washington DC is also a federal district with large amounts of federal property like the grounds of the U.S. Capital. If you were to be caught with an ounce or less of marijuana on the street next to the capital by DC police, you would simply just have to pay a $25 fine for breaking the law. However, if you were to take one step over on the grounds of the Capitol with any quantity of marijuana, and then caught by the Capital Police (who are federal law enforcement officials), you could be arrested and convicted of a felony.

This is why the decriminalization law is very murky for a place like the District of Columbia that has a significant overlap of city and federal law enforcement agencies that most territories and states in the country don’t have. However, the reason provided by city officials of DC for passing this law was to help alleviate the racial disparity in marijuana arrests, along with keeping non-violent users of marijuana out of jails to cut down costs that it takes to house and incarcerate those individuals.

However, the DC marijuana decriminalization law still allows for you to be convicted of a felony should you possess over an ounce of marijuana, or smoke marijuana in public. This effectively keeps the criminalization of marijuana in place for dealers and distributors, and only provides criminal relief to marijuana consumers on their private property.

There are also a couple additions to the law that can protect you as an individual should you be approached by a District of Columbia officer trying to find you in possession of marijuana. An officer, who smells marijuana on you, now cannot force you to show your identification or search you. Prior to this law being passed, if you smelled like marijuana, the officer could see this as probable cause to search you and make you show your identification.

While these additional protections are in place for citizens, the DC Marijuana laws do almost nothing to affect DUI’s. However, citizens can take solace in the fact that their car cannot be searched by a police officer looking for contraband simply because it smells like marijuana. However, this does not stop you from being convicted of a felony for driving under the influence should an officer catch you operating a vehicle while impaired.

With the complexities and confusion of this new law, if you or a family member has been arrested for marijuana possession or operating a vehicle while impaired in the District of Columbia, it is important you contact an attorney to understand what your rights and defenses are under the law. This is advised because an attorney will be able to help protect your rights as you go through the legal system, and can guide you on the best course of action to take.

If you, a family member, or friend have been charged with a Marijuana related crime in the District of Columbia Contact our office today for a free consultation by calling 202-861-0085.

Additional Resources:

D.C. Council votes to eliminate jail time for marijuana possession, Washington Post, March 5, 2014, By Aaron C. Davis.

Other Blogs:

D.C. DUI law Overview – Penalties & Mandatory Minimums, Legal Blog Post, Law Office of Thomas Lester.


Friday, April 18, 2014

D.C. DUI law Overview – Penalties & Mandatory Minimums

The District of Columbia is no slouch when it comes to DUI enforcement, in fact some may say the DUI laws in D.C. are very strict.

Our DUI defense attorney in D.C. knows that being charged with a DUI in the District of Columbia can be a frightening experience. The truth is that law enforcement officers may abuse their positions of power and trick a driver into doing and saying things that will lead to their arrest and even hurt their case at trial.

It is important to know that a police officer must act within certain boundaries prior to pulling a suspected drunk driver over and throughout the stop.

Aside from remaining silent and asking for an attorney you should be aware of the penalties involved with a drunk driving conviction.

In general, a driver who is impaired and/or has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of more than .08 can be convicted of drunk driving in the District of Columbia. Sometimes a driver may feel sober but this will not make a difference if that individual does not perform standardized field sobriety tests to the police officer’s satisfaction.

One specific aspect of the DUI statute in D.C. is known as implied consent. Under implied consent laws any person who is driving in the District of Columbia is required to submit to two forms of chemical testing for BAC levels.

If a driver in D.C. refuses to submit to chemical testing they can be charged with what is called DUI Refusal. Under the D.C. Code a driver who is charged with refusal may face a presumption that they were intoxicated while driving and that was the reason they refused the test.

The D.C. DUI statute punishes repeat DUI offenders more harshly with each offense. Furthermore, a driver with a higher BAC may be more severely punished by D.C. than a driver who is just barely over the limit.

In fact, the D.C. DUI laws also include mandatory minimum jail time of 10 days for first time offenders with a BAC greater than .20. The mandatory minimum jail time increases to 15 days and then 20 for individuals with BACs of .25 and .30 respectively.

The penalties for a DUI conviction can be enhanced through other aggravating circumstances as well including:

  • Minor in the vehicle: If an individual is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol with a minor in the vehicle they will receive a mandatory minimum of 5 days in jail for each properly restrained minor. If the police find that the minor is not properly restrained the mandatory minimum increases to 10 days for each improperly restrained minor.
  •  Prohibited drugs: If a person is driving with a Schedule I drug, controlled substance or chemical in the car while under the influence they could experience enhanced jail time.
  • Taxis and other commercial vehicles: If a driver of a commercial vehicle is found guilty of DUI they will experience a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 5 days.

In addition to jailtime and severe fines an individual convicted of DUI in the District of Columbia may be assessed up to 12 points on their license, which can result in an automatic revocation for up to 6 months.

If you have been charged with DUI or believe you will be it is important to hire an attorney who is experience in DC DUI defense. An attorney can protect your rights starting leading up to and during the trial.

If you, a family member, or friend have been charged with a DUI in the District of Columbia Contact our office today for a free consultation by calling 202-861-0085. Additional Resources:

Penalties for Drinking and Driving, Metropolitan Police Department.

D.C. toughens drunk driving law, restores breath test, Washington Post, July, 31, 2012, By Robert Thomson.




The Law Office of Thomas E. Lester serves clients throughout Washington D.C. and Virginia.



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