Facing a DUI charge in Virginia can be a daunting experience, as both law enforcement and the judicial system are committed to rigorously enforcing DUI regulations in the Commonwealth. If you are charged, knowing the facts about drunk driving charges in Virginia can help you make an informed decision about how best to proceed. The only way, however, to get a full and accurate explanation of the DUI laws in Virginia, recent decisions, and how the applies to your case, is to contact an experienced Virginia DUI lawyer.
- Building Defense Strategies in Virginia DUI Cases
- Penalties for Virginia DUI Charges
- DUI Cases
- Field Sobriety Tests in Virginia
- Refusing Field Sobriety Tests
- Chemical Breath and Blood Tests
- The Impact of DUI on a Driver’s License
- Ignition Interlock Devices
Driving Under the Influence in Virginia
Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is considered a criminal offense in Virginia. According to the Code of Virginia Section 18.2-266, DUI is defined as driving or operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more, while under the influence of alcohol, or while under the influence of some other narcotic drug or intoxicant. The laws in Virginia are strict and a blood alcohol test does not even have to be administered in order for the prosecution to obtain a conviction for drunk driving. For individuals under the age of 21, the legal blood alcohol level is even lower as it is defined in Section 18.2-266.1 as .02 percent.
The penalties attached to a finding of guilt on a driving under the influence charge are severe as it is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Section 18.2-270 of the Code of Virginia states that the maximum punishment for a first offense is a $2,500 fine, one year in jail, and the loss of one’s driving privileges for one year. However, the penalties associated with a drunk driving conviction do not stop there. Every person convicted of an impaired driving offense must attend a mandatory alcohol safety program called the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP), which costs several hundred dollars to complete. A convicted driver will also face increased insurance rates which inevitably result from a conviction for drunk driving, and a suspension of their driving privileges. There are also serious social consequences that can result from developing a criminal record. Future opportunities in education and employment may be impacted as well.
When might a person be pulled over for a suspected DUI?
If a law enforcement officer observes a driver operating a vehicle in a reckless manner or in a way that the officer determines to be erratic or unusual, the officer will probably pull the driver over on the side of the road. Sometimes, drivers get pulled over for other reasons, such as having a broken headlight, but when the officer approaches the vehicle they suspect that the driver is under the influence. At that time, the officer may request that the driver cooperate in a field sobriety test. A portable breathalyzer test may be administered at that time as well as a means to measure the driver’s BAC as close as possible to when they were actually driving their motor vehicle.
The field sobriety tests that are usually administered during a DUI stop are the standardized tests that are approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The tests include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test, the Walk-and-Turn (WAT) test, and the One-Leg Stand (OLS) test. These tests require an individual to follow very specific directions, have extremely good balance, and also divide their attention between several stimuli at one time. Police officers use the tests to identify signs of impairment in drivers. Unfortunately, there are myriad other factors that may impact the results of a field sobriety test, including various medical conditions, the driver’s footwear, weather conditions, and how flat the road is where the tests are being performed. It is very difficult for people to pass the field sobriety tests even when they have not been drinking alcohol.
What defenses are available for someone charged with DUI?
An experienced attorney can investigate many possible defenses against a charge of DUI. Perhaps there was no real reason for the driver to be stopped in the first place. If no blood alcohol test was administered, or if the blood alcohol level of the driver was under .08 percent and there is no evidence of erratic driving, there may be a real question as to whether the driver was actually impaired. There may have been a problem with the way field sobriety tests were administered. There are also many issues that can arise from the administration of the breathalyzer test that can only be discovered when a skilled attorney challenges the test itself. Our legal team can use the full range of trial tactics available to challenge a charge of drunk driving.
If you have been charged with drunk driving, one of the first things you can do to protect your rights is contact our office to make an appointment for a free initial consultation. A Virginia DUI lawyer can meet with you to discuss the specifics of your case. She can explain the possible consequences of a guilty verdict so that you can decide how best to proceed.
If you decide to retain a DUI attorney from our team to represent you, you immediately have the reassurance that your attorney will have your best interests at heart. Our DUI lawyers can examine the evidence in your specific case to determine what defenses are available to you depending upon the facts which are unique to your case. In some instances, it is possible to obtain a dismissal of all charges or obtain a finding of not guilty. In other cases, it may be in your best interest to negotiate a plea to a lesser charge, or plead guilty to the DUI and let your attorney argue for the lowest penalties possible. Regardless of the legal strategy you choose to employ, you can depend on your Virginia DUi lawyer to be there beside you, guiding you through each stage of the process.
Driving under the influence is a criminal charge which must be taken seriously. The ramifications of a conviction are much worse than they are for a simple traffic ticket and can impact you for the rest of your life. Choosing to represent yourself could have disastrous consequences. You owe it to yourself to obtain all of the information possible concerning the charges against you so you can make an informed decision about how to proceed. A DUI case could impact the rest of your life – don’t risk handling it without top-notch legal help.