Although it may seem like a minor offense, a first time DUI charge can a variety of long term consequences that impact your life. With this in mind, the following is information on what you should know following a first time offense and how an Arlington DUI lawyer can help. Call today to schedule your free consultation.
First-time DUI charges in Arlington are heard in the General District Court, located on the third floor of the courthouse at 1425 North Courthouse Road. In General District Court, you typically will have an arraignment where the judge inquires as to whether you are going to hire your own attorney or whether you want a court appointed attorney. The case will then be set up for a trial. In between the initial appearance for the arraignment and the trial date if you have an attorney, they will conduct discovery.
Once you come to court on your trial day in Arlington, they will typically have the trial on the first trial date. The trial will be heard by a judge not a jury. If you have a trial, it will consist of the Commonwealth calling evidence and you’re allowed to present any evidence in your behalf. This will all happen in General District Court, the same place where your arraignment was, on the third floor of the courthouse.
If you are unhappy with the outcome of your trial, you can appeal the case to Circuit Court—that would be the second court where you would appear but the first place you appear is the general district court.
Prosecutors handle first-time DUI charges very seriously. Arlington prosecutors take this charge very seriously. They are typically not willing to amend charges to lesser offenses and they tend to want to punish DUI drivers aggressively.
With that said, how they handle it depends on the individual case, but if there’s an accident, if there’s an elevated blood alcohol content, or even if there is neither of those the prosecutors will often seek active jail time.
If your blood alcohol content is above the legal limit but there’s no accident, it is likely that you’ll have also face jail time, a fine, completion of alcohol programs, loss of license, and a conviction on your record. Because of how vigorously prosecutors pursue these charges, it is incredibly important that a person get in touch with an Arlington DUI attorney to discuss and build their defense.
Courts treat first-time DUI offenses very seriously as well. It’s one of the more serious misdemeanor charges that courts handle. They punish convictions and charges severely. They want drunk drivers to be held accountable and they treat them very harshly. Typically if you are convicted of a first-offense DUI in Virginia with no aggravating factors, meaning your blood alcohol content isn’t at or above 0.15 and there is no accident, you’ll still be looking at a lot of suspended jail time, a fine of about $300, a loss of license for a year, ASAP program, and payment of your court costs.
If there’s an accident involved or an elevated blood alcohol content, meaning at or above a 0.15, it can mean mandatory jail time and additional jail time for accidents, plus the loss of license, ASAP program, and fines. Courts treat these charges seriously and when they find someone guilty, they punish them harshly.
You don’t have a jury option in General District Court, which is the first place your case is heard. That will involve a judge only. If you’re not happy with the outcome in the General District Court and the judge’s finding, then you have a right to appeal at the Circuit Court. In the Circuit Court, you have a right to a jury trial if you want it or you have a right to have another judge to hear your case and sentence you.
For DUI, the jury can sentence you anywhere from zero days to 12 months in jail and a fine up to $2,500. The jury is hard to predict because they don’t hear trials everyday like judges so they have no baseline from which to gauge what the appropriate sentence is.
A jury is a more of a wildcard—if they do find you guilty, they can sentence you in any wide array of sentencing options and it is less predictable. The judges will sentence you fairly harshly. They will do a high period of suspended jail time, a fine, a loss of license, and the ASAP program. They see these cases more frequently and have a more standard, predictable disposition, but it’s hard to say who’s more lenient.
In Arlington and the rest of Virginia, it really depends on the composition of the jury, the facts of each case, and other factors to determine who is more lenient.
A first-time conviction for DUI will result in a one-year loss of your privilege to drive in Virginia, however you are able to get a restricted license. A restricted license allows you to drive to and from certain places like work, medical appointments, your ASAP meetings, probation or treatment, and perhaps for childcare purposes. The law in Virginia requires for any restricted license that’s suspended due to a DUI offense, that an ignition interlock device must be installed on the vehicle.
That is the effect that a conviction of a DUI will have on your license, even for a first-time offense. You can expect that it will be suspended for one year. You’re not going to be allowed to drive during that time, except for certain purposes and with the installation of an ignition interlock.
If you are convicted of a first-time DUI in Arlington, you must have a one-year suspension of license. There is no discretion from the judge or prosecutor as it is required by law and there is nothing you can challenge if you are convicted. With that said, if you’re acquitted of a charge that means they have not proven that you’ve done anything wrong. They have to give your license back. They cannot suspend you if you’ve been acquitted of the charge that means you have been found not guilty. They have no control over you.
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