- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Motorists caught driving drunk in the District will face stiffer penalties starting Wednesday, including longer stays in jail for those with higher blood-alcohol levels and repeat offenders.

Those with a history of driving under the influence and first-time offenders with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.2 percent or more will see minimum jail sentences increase from five to 10 days, according to a spokesman for the D.C. attorney general. Those registering a 0.25 percent blood-alcohol concentration will be required to spend 15 days in jail rather than 10, and those with a 0.3 percent concentration must spend 20 days in jail.

Drivers found to be under the influence of certain illegal drugs would also be required to spend from 15 to 20 days in jail, depending on whether the conviction is a first-time offense.

It is illegal to drive a personal vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of more than 0.08 percent, but for the first time the law will hold commercial drivers to a higher standard. Drivers of commercial vehicles, including taxicabs, limousines, shuttle buses, and 18-wheelers will have to abide by a blood-alcohol limit of 0.04 percent. Drivers of those vehicles would face minimum jail sentences of five days if convicted of driving with a higher blood-alcohol concentration.

Maximum incarceration periods and fines will increase, with first-time offenders facing jail sentences of up to 180 days and fines of up to $1,000.

The new laws and penalties are part of a comprehensive impaired driving act passed by the D.C. Council and signed into law by Mayor Vincent C. Gray this year.

Among other provisions is protocol for the oversight of the Metropolitan Police Department’s breath analyzer program, which ran into accuracy problems in 2010. As a result, the department has been using more expensive urine samples to calculate blood-alcohol levels.

D.C. police are awaiting final testing of new breath analyzers before training officers to use the equipment, police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said.

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