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Henrico DUIs: What To Expect in Court

Henrico County cases are prosecuted vigorously. Henrico County is what we refer to as a zero tolerance jurisdiction. In other words, they don’t offer diversionary or probationary avenues in handling a DUI. They will always seek to get a conviction on a DUI case and punish harshly where laws or facts require it. Contact a DUI attorney if you have been charged in Henrico.

Henrico DUI cases are heard in Henrico General District Court. There are four courtrooms on the first floor in the general district court where these matters are heard.  Most DUI cases are heard before a judge and not a jury.

Are Henrico DUI Cases Usually Bench or Jury Trials?

Henrico County cases are from the most part bench trials. First offense and second offense DUIs are always bench trials unless they’re on appeal and an individual will request the jury trial. If it’s a third offense that can be heard before a jury, but in most cases it’s a bench trial.

What Do Prosecutors Need to Prove in Court?

In a Henrico DUI case, the prosecutor has to show you were operating a vehicle in Henrico County while under the influence of alcohol. Operating is being in control of the vehicle, either operating on a road or it being operational while parked. They then must show that while operating a vehicle you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  They will show this by admitting the following:

  • Evidence of your field tests
  • Statements
  • Results from the blood alcohol test

If you blood alcohol test results were .08 or higher, you are presumed to be intoxicated under Virginia law.

Evidence In Henrico DUI Cases

Prosecutors will typically present evidence of your actions that led to your initial stop and subsequent arrest.  They’ll have the officer testify as to your driving which led to the stop and your subsequent statements, behavior, and performance on tests. They will then present evidence of your tests results on the BAC machine, which if showing .08 or higher are a presumption of intoxication.

Trends In Henrico DUI Cases

The one thing we’ve noticed over the last two years are that prosecutors on first offense cases are more open to negotiation, especially if we can raise legal issues or mitigating factors. In many cases, the prosecutors will consider reducing blood alcohol levels on a conviction or even possibly reducing a charge if we can show significant legal issue and mitigating factors.

I think this is because over the last few years there have been some changes in how Henrico County handles these cases. In addition, due to the harsh penalties associated with DUIs prosecutors are more open to negotiating cases where there are legal issues or mitigating factors and no prior offenses.

Sentencing In Henrico DUI Cases

Henrico will impose harsh sentences where the law and facts require it. The Court will also apply the minimum mandatory sentences on enhances DUI cases and often go above the required sentencing. On the second offenses or subsequent offenses, the Courts will go above and beyond the minimum mandatory jail.

The courts will look at the facts of the case to determine if there are aggravating factors such as:

  • High blood alcohol
  • An accident involved
  • your prior record, for prior DUI or alcohol related convictions

Also, courts look for mitigating factors toward sentencing, such as:

  • Involvement in alcohol counseling
  • Community service
  • Employment
  • A clean record

Henrico DUI Conviction Appeals

You can appeal a Henrico DUI case if it’s a first offense or a second offense in general district court. There’s an automatic right to appeal to the Circuit Court within 10 days of the lower Court’s ruling.  If it’s a case finalized in Circuit Court, you still have a right to appeal but you must show an error in law for it to be accepted by the Court of Appeals.

Appealing To Circuit Court

Appealing to circuit court will result from a conviction from a first or second offense DUI case in general district court. When a case is appealed it has to be appealed within ten days of the original finding. Then the case will go to circuit court for a new trial.  The case will be heard de novo, which means that it’s retried all over again with a new presentation of the facts and evidence.