Virginia DUI: Myths and Facts
The charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is one of the most common criminal offenses filed in the Commonwealth of Virginia and it affects a wide swath of the population, regardless of their socio-economic status. People who have otherwise maintained a clean record may suddenly find themselves arrested for DUI after having just a drink or two while out with co-workers or loved ones.
Almost everyone thinks they are “okay to drive” and few get behind the wheel with the intent to put themselves and others at risk. But if they miss a stop sign, weave a little too much, or commit a minor traffic violation that gives a police officer, state trooper, or sheriff’s deputy probable cause for a traffic stop.
This can open the door to serious problems. Obviously, the best way to avoid these issues to never drive after drinking. There are some cases in which a person can be wrongly accused of DUI.
The first step towards fighting an erroneous charge is to understand the subject of DUI, including the myths and facts that surround this area of law in Virginia. Please refer to the following page as a general guide.
For specific information regarding your DUI charge, contact our office today.
VA DUI Misconceptions and Realities
Myth: You can only be arrested for DUI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) registers 0.08 percent or greater.
Fact: In general, Virginia places 0.08 percent as the legal limit for intoxication. If your BAC reaches this level, you are considered to be intoxicated per se, which means you can be charged even if you do not show signs of impairment. However, you can be charged with DUI with a much lower BAC. If you are younger than the legal drinking age of 21, you can be charged with a DUI with a BAC of only 0.02 percent—which can be achieved by consuming less than one full drink.
Furthermore, drugged driving is an increasing problem in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and throughout the United States. The presence of drugs in your blood stream will not be indicated by an increase in BAC, but is determined through other methods.
Myth: If I am arrested for DUI, I should refuse to consent to blood alcohol testing.
Fact: Virginia operates under the theory of “implied consent,” which means that by accepting your driver’s license, you consent to blood alcohol testing if you are the subject of a valid arrest. You have the right to refuse a roadside sobriety test, but when it comes to post-arrest blood or breath testing, an unreasonable refusal to submit incurs the automatic suspension of your driver’s license, whether or not you are ultimately convicted of DUI. No one can tell you whether or not you should refuse to submit to a post-arrest breath test or blood test.
Certainly, a positive BAC can make your case difficult to defend, but a successful defense is not impossible. On the other hand, if you unreasonably refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, you will lose your license.
Myth: If you are pulled over for suspicion of DUI, you must submit to a field sobriety test or roadside breath test.
Fact: The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are designed to give law enforcement officers probable cause for your arrest. Just as you do not have to answer any questions about your activities, you do not have to submit to a field sobriety test.
Similarly, a portable breath test (PBT) offered on the side of the road is used to detect the presence of alcohol in your system and to give the officer grounds to arrest you, but you do not have to agree to such a test. Be advised, if you refuse to submit to a field sobriety test or a roadside breath test you will likely be arrested anyway.
However, the arresting officer will not have the evidence of a failed breath test or field sobriety test to support the charge when you go to court. Though you can still be arrested for DUI, the government may not be able to prove intoxication.
Myth: If I use mouthwash/breath spray/breath mints/pennies/drink coffee, I can either trick the breath test or sober up quickly.
Fact: The only thing that successfully rids alcohol from your system is time. In fact, it is quite possible to get arrested for DUI the morning after drinking, as residual alcohol may remain in your system for quite some time. Drinking coffee will not sober you up. Using breath spray or mouthwash may mask the odor of alcohol, but because these products may contain alcohol themselves they are more likely to have the opposite effect.
Using mouthwash before driving can actually increase the amount of measurable alcohol in your mouth and register on the PBT. Using breath mints typically just makes you smell like alcohol and mints, and there is no correlation between copper and the reduction of the presence or scent of alcohol.
Myth: I only had a couple of drinks, or I only drank beer rather than hard liquor, so I am okay to drive.
Fact: Your blood alcohol concentration can vary widely depending on several factors of your consumption: your size, your gender, the number of drinks, and metabolism rate, for example. While BAC charts and calculators may give a general guideline as to how many drinks it takes to put you over the limit, they are far from foolproof and are often quite inaccurate.
A lot more goes into calculating BAC than the number of drinks you have consumed, so considering yourself “safe to drive” after any amount of alcohol is a risk. Furthermore, alcohol is alcohol and it affects the body similarly, regardless if it came from a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, a cocktail, or a shot of liquor.
Virginia DUI Defense
Do not fall victim to the misconceptions surrounding DUI in Virginia. If you plan to drink, stay home, call a cab, or appoint a designated driver to get you home safely.
If, despite your best-laid plans, you find yourself charged with DUI, call an experienced Virginia DUI lawyer like Karin Riley Porter. Preserve your rights and driving privileges.