Manassas DUI Lawyer
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can result in severe penalties under Virginia law. If you are facing DUI charges, enlisting the help of a Manassas DUI lawyer could be beneficial to your case. A skilled attorney could fight for your rights in and out of court and may be a vital resource in minimizing or avoiding the penalties associated with this offense.
Drunk Driving Statutes
A person in Manassas who operates a vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs can be charged with driving under the influence, according to Code of Virginia §18.2-266. Under §29.1-738, an individual can also be charged for this offense if they are intoxicated while operating a watercraft.
It may be in your best interest to contact a Manassas DUI lawyer if you are arrested and any of the following apply:
- The driver/boater’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.08 or above
- The driver/boater is “under the influence of alcohol” to the point of impairment in the opinion of the arresting officer, even if their BAC is under 0.08
- The driver/boater is under the influence of any drug, also in the opinion of the arresting officer
- The driver/boater is under the influence of both drugs and alcohol
Minors can be also be arrested for either offense if they have a BAC of 0.02 or above in accordance with §18.2-266.1.
What is “Driving” Under Commonwealth Law?
It is illegal for any person to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs anywhere in the Commonwealth. To pursue charges against a defendant, a prosecutor must be able to prove that the defendant was driving the vehicle in question. This is a more complex legal concept than it at first appears.
A person is subject to arrest if they are behind the wheel in a moving car, but a significant body of case law has upheld arrests where a defendant was not driving a car in a traditional sense. For example, cases exist where a police officer arrested a person for being drunk behind the wheel where the engine was not running. As long as a person is intoxicated with the apparent ability to drive a car, they may face charges and convictions for drunk driving. A Manassas attorney could provide more information about what it means to “drive” under Commonwealth DUI law.
DUI Arrests in Manassas
Upon arrest, an individual’s driver’s license may be administratively suspended. The duration can depend on whether this is a first or a repeated DUI offense. If the defendant wishes to request an interim restricted license, they must appear and petition the court.
Once convicted, a DUI may cause insurance rates to rise sharply. If this is a second or subsequent offense, the carrier could cancel an auto insurance policy. Those convicted of a DUI may be ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle, even if this is the first offense. The minimum amount of time that this device must remain on their vehicle is 6 months.
The impact of a DUI arrest can begin long before a conviction in court, and the consequences can be greater than just a criminal penalty. Many defendants find that an arrest can impact their ability to get to work, spend time with their children, and enjoy other aspects of their lives. A Manassas DUI attorney could help protect a person’s quality of life from the moment of arrest to the conclusion of their case.
From the Traffic Stop to DUI Charge
Police officers must have reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop the accused person’s vehicle. Officers may not pull over a vehicle on a mere hunch; there must be some driving behavior or circumstances that give the officer reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred or could occur.
Usually, a police officer justifies a stop by alleging that a driver has violated a rule of the road. Because alcohol or drugs can significantly affect a person’s ability to drive, someone driving under the influence may operate a car in a way that leads an officer to suspect intoxication.
Examples of apparent traffic violations that may lead to a stop include:
- Running red lights
- Center line violations
- Driving at night without headlights
After observing the driving behavior and conducting an initial interview, the officer may request that the driver take a series of roadside Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs). These tests are based on the driver’s ability to demonstrate physical coordination and mental acuity. The driver may decline to take these tests without legal punishment, but if they show impairment during any or all of these tests, the officer may arrest them on suspicion of DUI. It is important that individuals know their rights during a DUI stop to prevent incrimination.
There is a variety of physical evidence that a police officer may use to justify an arrest after making a stop. The results of a field sobriety test may form a part of this reasoning, but police officers receive training to help them identify other signs of intoxication. Officers may note in their report that they smelled alcohol in the car, that the driver slurred their speech, or that a driver had glassy eyes.
Once the driver arrives at the police station, a test is administered to determine their blood alcohol content, usually with a breathalyzer. The driver may decline to submit to this test as well, but the punishment for being found guilty of Unreasonable Refusal is the loss of one’s driver’s license for a year [Section 18.2-268.3]. This statutory suspension prohibits an individual from requesting a restricted license for their suspension period.
Though BAC tests are strong evidence against defendants, they are not bulletproof. A seasoned DUI lawyer in the area can often contest this evidence if any of the following can be proved:
- The test was improperly administered
- The device was not properly calibrated
- If the defendant was administered a blood test, which is preferred if they were treated for injuries from an accident, the blood was mishandled or contaminated
- The officer did not have reasonable suspicion to pull over the vehicle or lacked probable cause to arrest the accused
What Happens at Arraignment?
Going to court after being arrested for suspicion of DUI is a multistep process. While a person may be focused on their upcoming trial, in reality, this event may be several months or years in the future. However, every pretrial court appearance is an opportunity to learn more about the charges and protect one’s legal rights.
A person’s first appearance in court is always an arraignment. This is when the court will enter the formal charge into the record, determine the amount of bail in the case, and decide what pretrial conditions will apply.
Whether or not the court orders bail will depend on the severity of the charge. Defendants facing a basic DUI charge may be released on personal recognizance. This simply requires them to return to court for all future sessions and avoid any more legal trouble. In cases involving more serious allegations, such as aggravated DUI or instances where drunk driving may have endangered a child, the court may order the payment of cash bail to secure the release of the defendant. A Manassas DUI attorney could help the defendant by attending arraignment sessions to argue for fair bail terms.
Working to Discover Evidence that May Help a Defendant’s Case
There are no surprises in a DUI case. The prosecutor must disclose all their evidence to the defendant and their attorney long before the trial starts. This can allow the defendant to examine the evidence and develop a proper defense strategy.
This disclosure can also allow the defendant’s attorney to determine whether the methods used to gather this evidence violated the defendant’s Constitutional rights. For example, the attorney could contest the police officer’s stated justification for the initial traffic stop. If the court agrees that there was no fair basis to make the stop, then all evidence that the officer obtained as a result of that stop is inadmissible at trial. This outcome could result in a dismissal of the charges.
It is also possible to contest the admissibility of any statements made by the defendant while in police custody. Officers are required to read the defendant their Miranda rights before engaging in questioning. If the defendant does not waive their rights to remain silent or to have an attorney present while under questioning, police officers cannot ask questions. A nearby DUI attorney could help evaluate whether police officers violated the defendant’s rights while that person was in custody.
What are the Penalties for a DUI?
There are numerous factors that determine the degree of the penalty. They include:
- The driver’s BAC level (even if it is below 0.08)
- The number of previous convictions and the timing of those prior convictions
- Whether there were any minors in the vehicle when the driver was arrested
The penalty for first-time DUI conviction can be up to 12 months in jail and a fine as high as $2,500, but the maximum punishment is rarely imposed for a first offense. By statute, the driver’s license is suspended for a year for a first offense, and this is not negotiable.
A second conviction also has a maximum fine of $2,500, a minimum of 20 to 40 days in jail with a one-year maximum sentence, and a three-year license suspension. A third conviction is a felony with even more serious jail sentences and consequences, in addition to indefinite driver’s license suspension [§18.2-270]. A lawyer in the community with experience handling drunk driving cases could review your case and explain these penalties further.
Factors that Can Make a DUI Charge More Serious
A DUI charge is a matter that a defendant should take seriously. While an accusation or even a conviction can offer the defendant a valuable lesson, it is not unusual for first offenders to resume their normal lives after their arrest.
Individuals facing penalties for second or third convictions must endure a jail sentence and may see a permanent loss of license. Even first offenses could carry these serious penalties if the incident involved an aggravating factor.
In the eyes of the law, an aggravating factor is a fact in a case that allows a prosecutor to seek enhanced penalties for what would otherwise be a lesser offense. In DUI cases, the most obvious example is extreme intoxication. While basic drunk driving cases require a prosecutor to prove a BAC of .08 percent or more, aggravated DUI applies when this test reveals a result of .15 to .20 percent. When this happens, conviction requires a jail sentence of at least five days. If this level rises to .20 percent or more, the jail sentence must be at least ten days.
It is also common practice for police officers to combine allegations of DUI with other offenses. For example, having a child in the vehicle at the time of the arrest can automatically trigger enhanced sentencing guidelines in addition to the potential for child endangerment charges. If a DUI results in a collision, defendants could also face accusations of causing property damage or bodily harm to another party. A local DUI lawyer could provide more information about the potential enhancements or accompanying charges that may complicate DUI cases.
Reach Out to a Manassas DUI Attorney Today to Preserve Your Future
In the legal world, many people refer to DUI charges as a common man’s offense. Even people who have no other experience with the criminal justice system may face these accusations. If they are fortunate, they may never have legal trouble again. That being said, allegations of DUI are always serious, and a conviction could require you to serve time in jail, lose your license, and pay stiff fines.
Though facing an arrest for DUI can be intimidating, engaging a Manassas DUI lawyer early on could help you form a strong defense and preserve your rights. Call today to connect with a skilled attorney and get started on your case.