When I arrived at Washington, DC Traffic Court this morning for DUI arraignments, I found the court filled with people. Traffic court is normally pretty busy in DC but this was out of the ordinary. I quickly learned that the many of the protesters arrested by the US Capital Police during a demonstration opposing federal cuts to the city budget were being arraigned. It was at that protest that Mayor Gray, members of the DC City Council, and other members of the community were arrested for failure to obey to a police officer and blocking an intersection. The police apparently chose to arrest them on traffic violations rather than disturbing the piece or unlawful assembly so as not to be a First Amendment issue. Many of the protestors, including Mayor Gray, had already paid $50.00 to have the charges dropped as part of a deal offered by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for Washington, DC.
The 17 defendants who showed up in traffic court today were given a chance to have the case dropped for a payment of $100.00. Nine of them chose to pay. The others will be back in court next month. If they do not pay fine, they could eventually face jail time.
While this is not an everyday occurrence in traffic court, the concept of paying money to have a case dropped is quite common. In Washington, DC, this is called "Post and Forfeiture." The defendant is offered the chance to pay between $50.00 and $150.00 and the charges are dropped. There will be no conviction on the defendant's record. The defendant can later get the arrest expunged from their record with the help of a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney. I want to point out that this post and forfeiture procedure is usually reserved for offenses like using a fake ID or underage drinking. It will not generally be available for DUI charges. In the case of a DUI or DWI arrest in Washington, DC, your attorney can speak with out about other options like a differed sentencing agreement (DSA) which may be available.