Anytime a person has been previously convicted of two DUIs within the last 10 years, it is felony offense under Virginia Law to commit a third DUI. Whether the two previous offenses were committed within the last 5 years will change what the penalties are, but every third offense of DUI – so long as the previous two happened within 10 years – will be a felony in Virginia and therefore warrant attention from a Manassas felony DUI lawyer. Call today to discuss your case with a DUI lawyer in Manassas and begin building your defense.
The primary difference in the process of a case in the felony DUI is that there are two levels of court proceedings rather than just one that exists with a misdemeanor. Any felony case begins in a general district court where that court’s function is to hold a preliminary hearing or what is sometimes called a probable cause hearing to determine whether there is substantial evidence for the case to go forward. In the general district court, the government will be required to put on some, but not all of its evidence, and that is, frequently, the best opportunity (pretrial) that a felony DUI lawyer in Manassas gets to learn about the prosecution’s case.
Assuming that the judge finds that there is probable cause for the case to go forward, it will then be transferred to circuit court where information will be presented to a grand jury. In almost all cases, the grand jury returns an indictment, and following that, the case is set for trial.
The first step, in every case, is to look at the documents that have been served on the defendant. It’s important to understand, right from the beginning, exactly what they have been charged with, the details of when and where that occurred, who the charging officer is, and to determine whether there are any penalty enhancements. For example, if the alcohol level was 0.15 or above, or if it is a second or subsequent offense.
The next step is learning everything that a Manassas felony DUI attorney possibly can about the case. That comes in a number of forms. One of the ways is by getting the criminal complaint from the court’s file and seeing the written complaint created by the officer. Another crucial piece of this, is doing an in-depth interview with the defendant to learn everything about the situation, beginning with where they were, what they had to drink, where they were traveling to, and any/all of the events that surrounded their stop including the field sobriety tests and when the breath test that was given. By having a good foundation in the facts of the case from the beginning, an attorney is able to make the best tactical choices going forward.
Felony cases can be harder for the defense, if for no other reason than the stakes are so much higher. There are multiple levels both tactically and procedurally on which the case takes places as opposed to a single level on a misdemeanor case. Many criminal defense attorneys spend the majority of their practice, in general, dealing with misdemeanors. In the circuit court, the rules are different and the procedures are different so it’s foreign to them. It’s important, if you face a felony DUI, to retain a Manassas felony DUI lawyer who has significant circuit court experience. Only by doing that will you get the tactical advantage of someone who has experience in that particular kind of court.
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