Many governors and mayors across the country are taking steps to proactively stop the spread of COVID-19. This includes closures or restrictions placed on non-essential businesses, restaurants, and organizations. As part of the District of Columbia’s protocol, capacity limitations and safety procedures were put into effect as part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Phase Two reopening plan. While one may expect that fewer open businesses may result in significant decreases in certain traffic-related crimes, police report data reveals that instances of drunk driving are still prevalent across D.C. and surrounding areas.
Details of DUI’s in the DMV Area
While drunk driving may be occurring less often when compared to 2019, DUI arrest data reveals that the prevalence of impaired driving continues even with many bars and restaurants being closed across the city and surrounding areas. Police reports reveal that nearly that nearly 170 DUI arrests have occurred during a four-week span in late March and April in the DMV area. In Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, Maryland, about 80 DUI arrests took place. Within Virginia’s Fairfax County, 40 people were caught driving under the influence, and over 50 DUI arrests also took place in the District of Columbia, during those four weeks.
Impaired Driving Trends Across the United States
Across the country, many states are experiencing varying levels of impaired driving. Police officers in Denver, Colorado responded to double the amount of fatal impaired driving accidents in four months of 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019. Similarly, a report from the portable breathalyzer company, BACtrack, showed that 10 states exhibited an increase in the overall average Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) during shelter-in-place orders between March and April 2020. This report includes states such as California, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Conversely, states including Texas, New York, and North Carolina are experiencing an overall decrease in average BAC.
BACtrack used data to predict that some Americans were more likely to drink on weekdays during shelter-in-place orders. Notably, the company found that weekday drinking in California rose nearly 50 percent during the first week of quarantine. Additionally, BACtrack found that one-third of Americans were most likely to drink increased amounts of alcohol on Tuesdays during stay-at-home orders.
The Dangers of Drunk Driving During COVID-19
In the District of Columbia, the penalties for drinking and driving incrementally increase depending on several factors. This includes whether the impaired driver has prior offenses and the level of BAC recorded.
“The punishments for driving under the influence in D.C. could be severe depending on the facts of your case,” said Criminal Defense Attorney Kush Arora of Price Benowitz LLP. “in minor cases, an individual could face 10 days in jail. In more serious cases, someone could have their license revoked, fines up to $10,000, and up to a year in jail.”
In addition to the DUI charges, an individual caught while driving impaired could face additional penalties under certain circumstances, including driving impaired with minors, operating a commercial vehicle, or being impaired by a Schedule 1 substance.