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Virginia DUI Lawyer

If you are facing allegations of DUI anywhere in Virginia, you are right to be concerned. The available penalties for a DUI conviction are harsh. These will not only create a criminal record, but will also affect your driver’s license, and will increase your car insurance premiums.

Making matters worse, there are many ways for the Commonwealth to pursue allegations of DUI. A police officer can pull you over for any mundane offense, and if they merely believe that you are under the influence of any foreign substance, they can make an arrest. This includes not just alcohol, but also street drugs and even prescription medications.

In addition, allegations of DUI often accompany other moving violations or criminal offenses. It is not unusual for police officers and prosecutors to charge defendants in DUI cases with reckless driving, a variety of miscellaneous moving violations, or even endangerment of a child.

Virginia takes these allegations extremely seriously. Virginia does not offer any sort of diversion program that may allow you to escape criminal culpability in a plea bargain. Because of this, it is vital to work with a defense attorney who could fight to protect your rights and privileges every step of the way.

A Virginia DUI lawyer may be able to provide this essential help, as well as explain the facts and myths of a case. They can work with you during every stage of the process, from posting bond to appealing a conviction. This includes fighting for fair bail terms during an arraignment, discovering all relevant evidence concerning the arrest, making motions to exclude and illegal evidence, and presenting defenses at trial that create reasonable doubt concerning the prosecutor’s case.

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The Core DUI Statute in Virginia

 The acronym DUI stands for driving under the influence. The Commonwealth’s laws instead choose to label this offense as driving while intoxicated. The core concepts behind this idea remain the same.

VA Code § 18.2-266 is the Commonwealth’s basic DUI law. It provides police officers and prosecutors no fewer than five options to charge a defendant with DUI. These options are:

  1. Driving while having a blood/alcohol content of .08 percent or more
  2. Driving while under the influence of alcohol
  3. Driving while under the influence of any drug of any kind
  4. Driving while under the influence of any combination of drugs and alcohol
  5. Driving while having a blood/alcohol concentration above the legal limits

As a result, a DUI charge may come about in one of two main ways. The first is based on scientific evidence. An officer may make an arrest if a breath test indicates a blood/alcohol level of .08 percent or above. Additionally, an officer may make an arrest if a blood test reveals a violation of the maximum blood percentages listed in the statute for narcotic drugs.

The second basis for an arrest is an officer’s opinion as to whether a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This simply means that an officer believes that a person’s ability to drive is compromised due to the presence of any drug or alcohol in their system.

An arrest under either of these scenarios can lead to identical charges for DUI in court. In addition, the operation of a motor vehicle must take place on a “highway” in Virginia. Under VA Code §46.2-100, this includes any way or place held open to the use of vehicles in the Commonwealth. A Virginia DUI lawyer could help defendants to understand the Commonwealth’s core DUI statute and how it affects their case.

Implied Consent to Blood and Breath Tests

Holding a driver’s license is a privilege. As part of this privilege, all drivers on Virginia’s highways give implied consent to submit to field sobriety tests that may indicate intoxication. According to VA Code §18.2-268.2, all drivers consent to provide samples if an officer makes a request for a sample after an arrest for DUI within three hours of that arrest.

Subsection B states that an officer making an arrest upon suspicion of DUI due to alcohol can require a driver to submit to a breath test. It is only if a breath test is unavailable that a driver is required to submit to a blood test under these scenarios. Similarly, subsection C allows officers to require a driver to submit to a blood test if the arrest is based on impairment because of drugs.

While the law requires that all drivers submit to these tests upon officer request, the decision on whether to do so may be key to a DUI defense. Prosecutors can have a much more difficult time proving intoxication without this scientific evidence. However, defendants should be aware that a refusal to submit to a test has consequences.

VA Code §18.2-268.3 provides that a refusal to submit to a requested breath or blood test is a civil offense. This results in a suspension of a driver’s license for one year. In addition, the law states that a refusal to take a test combined with an eventual conviction for DUI requires a license suspension for three years in addition to any other required suspension. Finally, this offense transforms into a Class 1 misdemeanor. In all, the decision to refuse a blood or breath test carries strategic implications with a high risk/reward factor.

What are the Criminal Penalties for a First DUI Conviction?

The available penalties for a DUI conviction vary greatly. At its core, DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor. This means that the court may sentence a guilty defendant to a jail sentence of up to one year, a fine of up to $2,500 but no less than $250, or both under VA Code §18.2-11. However, this relatively light penalty only applies to people of a legal drinking age, who endure a first conviction, and without any aggravating factors. In some situations, a court may allow someone to install an alcohol monitoring device in their vehicle instead of going to jail.

Perhaps the most common aggravating factor in a DUI case is an enhanced state of intoxication. If a blood/alcohol reading indicates an alcohol content of between .15 and .20 percent, the court is required to sentence the defendant to an additional mandatory sentence of five days. Additionally, a blood/alcohol level of more than .20 requires a minimum of ten days in jail.

Another common aggravating factor in DUI cases is the presence of a prior conviction. VA Code §18.2-270 (2) says that a second conviction within a period of five to ten years after the first requires a defendant to pay a fine of no less than $500 and a minimum jail term of one month. A defendant must spend ten days of this sentence in jail.

A third conviction for DUI is a Class 6 felony. This raises the mandatory minimum jail sentence of 90 days if committed within ten years, but the minimum sentence is six months if the defendant commits the offenses within five years. The mandatory fine also increases to $1,000. A Virginia DUI lawyer could help people no matter how many prior DUI convictions are on their record. These penalties may be different for out-of-state drivers, individuals on probation, or truckers with a CDL

DUI Cases Involving Underage Drinkers

The alcohol laws in Virginia, like the rest of the country, strictly prohibit the consumption of alcohol for all people under the age of 21. Accordingly, the penalties for people under 21 who drink and drive are especially harsh. Under VA Code 18.2-266.1, it is illegal for any person under the age of 21 to have as little as .02 percent blood/alcohol concentration while driving. Of course, the same rules that prohibit having any drugs in one’s system while driving also apply.

Any person under 21 who suffers a DUI conviction faces enhanced penalties. While the law still classifies this as a Class 1 misdemeanor, the statute also requires a loss of license for one year from date of conviction and the payment of no less than $500 or 50 hours of community service. A Virginia DUI lawyer could help people of any age who face accusations of DUI. It is important to note that regional DUI laws may differ.  

Potential Administrative Penalties

While the criminal penalties for any DUI conviction are certainly harsh, they may pale in comparison to the effects on a defendant’s driver’s license. Any conviction for a DUI offense will result in a loss of license. In addition, a failed blood or breath test carries an additional period of suspension.

Under VA Code §18.2-271, a first conviction for DUI requires a one-year loss of license from the date of conviction. A second conviction within ten years of the first requires a loss of license for three years. Any further convictions, or a conviction connected to any felony DUI offense, will result in a permanent license revocation.

Additionally, VA Code §46.2-391.2 mandates an additional suspension to run concurrently to any suspension handed down for a DUI conviction. This statute states that any failed blood/alcohol test or a failure to submit to these tests when requested will result in a license suspension for seven days. Of course, this is in addition to any loss of license for simply refusing the test under VA Code §18.2-268.3. A Virginia DUI lawyer could help defendants to understand the potential effects of a DUI conviction on their driving privileges, what happens to their car after an arrest, and fight to protect those rights. They could also explain how driving is defined in these cases

The Effect of a DUI as Points on a License

In addition to any penalties that a criminal court may hand down after a DUI conviction, the Commonwealth’s Department of Motor Vehicles will also take action. Just as the Commonwealth considers drunk driving a serious criminal offense, the DMV also classifies DUI as the most serious type of moving violation that can affect a person’s driving privileges. The DMV maintains a driving record for every person in Virginia and assigns points to a person’s license after convictions for moving violations.

Any sort of DUI conviction is the most serious type of offense in the DMV’s rules. This is one example of a six-point offense meaning that a conviction will result in six points on a defendant’s license. This applies regardless of the theory that a prosecutor uses to secure the conviction and applies to cases involving both alcohol and drugs. While this is not enough points on its own to justify a suspension or even a warning letter, these six points are already halfway to a mandatory driver-safety course.

Of course, any penalty related to the DMV is in addition to any penalties from a criminal case. For this reason, it may motivate a defendant to fight back to protect not just their freedom but also the driving privileges. A Virginia DUI lawyer could help individuals to understand the potential impact that a DUI conviction could have in regard to DMV regulations.

DUI as Reckless Operation

DUI is, in and of itself, a serious criminal accusation. However, police officers who make these arrests may be motivated and see the opportunity to accuse defendants of additional violations.

Many of these may stem from the nature of the traffic stop. Police officers must have a reasonable suspicion to stop a person who is driving down the street. This can be something as simple as a failure to signal before turning or speeding. In other situations, a police officer may justify a stop based on swerving or a general poor display of driving. In short, an officer must witness a violation of a rule of the road to make a traffic stop.

It is only once this stop occurs that an officer can begin to examine a person’s physical and mental state to build a DUI case. At this point, an officer may examine a person for the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, glassy eyes, or any of another dozen signs of intoxication. It is at this point that they may make an arrest.

The officer will charge a defendant with DUI but often adds on other violations that led to the stop. This is to memorialize their reasons for making the stop in the first place. Because a court may throw out a DUI case if a defense attorney successfully argues that the stop was illegal, officers receive specific training on this point. As a result, it is not uncommon for a DUI defendant to face a minor moving violation charge in addition to DUI allegations. While not serious on their own, a conviction for a whole group of charges may result in the accumulation of enough points on a driver’s license to justify a suspension.

Further, a police officer may choose to classify drunk driving as reckless operation. This is a separate criminal charge most often tried as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Under VA Code §46.2-852, reckless driving is any excessive speeding or other driving that places others at a risk of harm to life, limb, or property.

The mere fact that a police officer believes that a driver was impaired may satisfy the requirements for this charge. Since a conviction here is also a six-point offense, a dual DUI/Reckless operation conviction can result in an immediate censure by the DMV. A Virginia DUI lawyer could help to contest any accompanying charges in a DUI case.

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Let a Virginia DUI Attorney Assist You

An allegation involving DUI can be a frightening and confusing experience. The Commonwealth’s laws concerning DUI are complex, and you may be unclear as to why an officer felt justified in making an arrest. In short, it is illegal to operate any motor vehicle while under the influence of any foreign substance.

As a result, you may face arrest even if you don’t exceed the legal blood/alcohol limits or were simply taking your prescription medications. Further, the law requires all drivers to submit to a breath or blood test upon police officer request. A failure to do so carries severe consequences.

The available penalties for a DUI conviction are harsh. Even a first offense is a criminal matter that requires a loss of license for one year, the payment of stiff fines, and even a jail sentence. Subsequent convictions require a defendant to spend time in jail and to lose their licenses for years. Additionally, the DMV will place points on your license that could result in additional punishment.

A Virginia DUI lawyer may be able to help you if you are facing any sort of DUI accusation in Virginia. They work tirelessly to help you understand your rights and what the prosecutor needs to prove in court. They can work to investigate the incident, to discover any holes in the police work that led to the arrest and fight to protect your rights every step of the way. Because Virginia does not offer any type of diversion program for any DUI case, it is essential to take a strong stance to protect yourself. Let a Virginia DUI lawyer help you. To see how an attorney could help you, schedule a consultation today.

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