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Virginia DUI Cases

Virginia prosecutes DUI cases as vigorously, if not more vigorously than any other state in the country. It is not true in Virginia that simply being a first offender is going to result in a reduction or dismissal of the charge. Regardless of who the person is, what their record is, and what their station in life is, a prosecutor in a Virginia DUI case is going to try to convict the person.

Over time, laws have become harsher as it has become easier for the government to prove DUIs. The Virginia Supreme Court has consistently ruled over the years in most cases in ways that are beneficial to the prosecution.  Because of the serious prosecution, you will require an experienced Virginia DUI attorney to help navigate the charges.

Hearing a Case

Depending on the case, a Virginia DUI case can be heard in a couple of different courts. The most common is the general district court. That is the court in Virginia that hears all misdemeanor cases. If a person is charged with a first or second offense DUI within five or 10 years of each other, then the case will be heard in the general district court.

If a person was charged with a felony DUI offense or a subsequent offense, there will be two parts to the case. The first will be in general district court, however, instead of having a trial in that court, there will be a preliminary hearing to determine whether there was probable cause to arrest the person for the DUI. If that court finds that there was probable cause, then the case will be moved to the circuit court. In that court, a trial date will be set and the case will be concluded.

Types of DUI Trials

The vast majority of Virginia DUI cases are bench trials. That is because the vast majority of Virginia DUI cases are misdemeanors. In a misdemeanor case, a person does not have the right to a jury trial in the general district court. If a person is convicted in the general district court, they have the right to appeal the case to the circuit court where they could ask for a jury.

Even in cases of felony DUIs and misdemeanor appeals of DUIs in the circuit court, in most cases, neither the government nor the defendant asks for a jury. However, in some cases, it may be much to the defendant’s advantage. That is a determination that has to be made by the attorney in consultation with their client and with the specific facts and circumstances of that case.

Length of the Case

A misdemeanor Virginia DUI case can take as little as 60 to 90 days, or six months or more. This will depend upon the court that the DUI is being heard in and how busy it is. It will also depend on the officer, any other witnesses, and the type of DUI case. DUI blood cases take much longer to get to trial because of the necessity of scheduling medical personnel and other individuals who the government will use as witnesses as part of that case.

Common Evidence in a Drunk Driving Case

There are two primary components for the government to prove in a DUI case. The first is going to be the testimony of the officer who conducted the stop and ultimately made the arrest. That officer is able to testify as to why the defendant was stopped, what they observed about the defendant during the stop, and how they performed on field sobriety tests. Another important piece of evidence for the government is going to be a certificate of analysis that sets forth what the blood alcohol content of the accused was.

Burden of Proof

There are two main things that a prosecutor must prove in order to secure a DUI conviction. The first is that the defendant was operating a motor vehicle. Operating in Virginia is something that is a broader concept than simply driving. Although driving is included in operating, operating can also include sitting in a vehicle with the engine on or even sitting in a vehicle with the engine off if the keys are in the ignition.

The second thing that the government has to prove is that the person was under the influence. There are a number of ways that the government can prove that but, they must either prove that the person had more than a 0.08 blood alcohol content, that the person had above the prescribed amount of certain drugs in their system, or that the person had any combination of drugs or alcohol which impaired their ability to drive.