If  you’ve been arrested for DUI in Washington, D.C., you probably started worrying about the consequences as soon as the handcuffs went on. Will I go to jail? Will I lose my driver’s license? Will this be on my record? If you are a Legal Permanent Resident, or have some other non-citizen immigration status, you are also worried about your ability to stay in the United States. The answers to all your questions are as different as the facts of your case.

Not all DUIs are created equal. Some involve accidents with property damage or physical injuries. Sometimes the defendant agrees to blow or give a urine sample, and sometimes they refuse. Performance on field sobriety tests varies from almost perfect to literally falling down drunk. While all of these differences play a big part at trial, they also help determine whether your D.C. DUI lawyer is going to be able to get you a diversion offer. But more importantly, the facts of your case determine whether your lawyer should even seek diversion.

To understand diversion better, it helps to know what the possible outcomes are in your Washington, D.C. DUI case. These outcomes are actually fairly simple, and include 1) accepting a plea offer from the government, and entering a plea of guilty; 2) rejecting the government’s plea offer, and having a trial before a judge; or 3) accepting a diversion offer, and eventually having your case dismissed.

Generally, the best case scenario is that your case goes to trial, and either it gets dismissed, because the government isn’t ready for trial on the trial date, or a trial is held and the judge finds you not guilty. In that scenario, your case is over, you do not have a conviction on your record, and you can go back to your life. But regardless of who your DUI lawyer is, the outcome of your case is usually determined by the facts. Generally, if the police report says that you reeked of alcohol, that you slurred your speech, that you fell down several times while performing the field sobriety tests, and that you had an open bottle of Jack Daniels in your car, your case may not be a prime candidate for trial. But that doesn’t mean that you should plead guilty, either.

In my experience, if your Washington, D.C. DUI doesn’t include a serious car accident, and your breath test scores (if they exist) aren’t off the charts, a diversion agreement can be negotiated. By far the most common diversion agreement available in Washington, D.C. DUI cases is a Deferred Sentencing Agreement (DSA).  The most important and beneficial part of a DSA is that, if you satisfy all the conditions of the agreement, your case will ultimately be dismissed by the government. But that dismissal  requires you to jump through some hoops.

First, in order to enter the DSA agreement, you have to enter a plea of guilty. That means standing before the judge and admitting that you were operating your vehicle under the influence. If you believe you weren’t, then saying you were is no easy thing.  But if you get through it, you will have several things to accomplish in the next 12 months, including community service (usually 5 days), an online Traffic Safety Program, a Victim Impact Panel, and a more intensive Alcohol Traffic Program.  You will also be required to make a $150 contribution to the Victims of Violent Crime Fraud, required by any defendant who enters a guilty plea in D.C. Superior Court. In addition, the D.C. DMV may suspend your driver’s license for 6 months, based on your guilty plea. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

In the end, satisfying the requirements of a DSA can be time-consuming and expensive. Yet, if you are convicted of DUI in Washington, D.C., you will not only have to fulfill the same requirements (minus the community service, usually), but you will also have a DUI conviction on your record. Plus, you will likely be on supervised probation. But keep in mind, if you fail to satisfy the DSA agreement, instead of having your cases dismissed in 12 months, you will be sentenced, as if you had simply been convicted.

The decision to enter into a diversion agreement should be discussed with your D.C. DUI lawyer. Your lawyer will advise you if a DSA is a possibility in your case, or whether you should take your case to trial. If you have been arrested for DUI in Washington, D.C., contact Gretchen Taylor Pousson at Scrofano Law PC for a free in-office consultation.