Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Impaired driving due to alcohol or drugs is a serious offense in Virginia. DUI convictions carry stiff legal penalties and potentially long-lasting personal ramifications. Fortunately, there are several ways to defend against DUI charges. By working with a skilled Virginia DUI lawyer, you may be able to avoid or minimize the devastating impact of an alcohol or drug-related conviction. Criminal defense attorney John C. Clark, Esq., of Walker Jones, PC, handles DUI and other traffic law cases in Fauquier County and throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. If you have been charged with a DUI in Virginia, here is what you need to know.
What are the types of DUI offenses in Virginia?
Under Virginia law, there is no distinction between driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI). It is illegal to operate any type of motor vehicle, including boats and trains, under the influence of any substance that alters his or her ability to operate the vehicle safely. Alcohol is a very common substance at issue in DUI cases, but the impairment may also be caused by street drugs or even prescription drugs. Generally, standard DUI charges including first and second offenses are misdemeanors, but a third or fourth offense will be upgraded to a felony
Because of Virginia’s implied consent laws, drivers stopped by the police on suspicion of drunk driving are required to submit to a breath or blood test. DUI charges are legally determined by measuring a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.8 percent or higher, or by impairment of any drug. Commercial drivers can be charged with DUI if their BAC is 0.04 percent or higher. A person under 21 years old is guilty of underage DUI if he or she consumed alcohol or had a BAC greater than 0.02 percent and operated a motor vehicle. Any driver may be arrested with a lower BAC if the police determine that the driver is too impaired to be operating the vehicle.
Any person who, as a result of driving while intoxicated in a manner so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, unintentionally causes the serious bodily injury of another person resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment, shall be guilty of a felony. In Virginia, this is called DUI maiming. Unintentionally causing the death of another person while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is called DUI involuntary manslaughter.
What are the consequences of a Virginia DUI conviction?
DUI convictions can result in severe penalties that increase with each subsequent conviction. The penalties depend on how many prior DUI convictions the defendant has had within the past 10 years, or within the past 5 years if the driver had an extremely high BAC level detection and if there was a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense. The personal ramifications of a DUI conviction cannot be ignored either. These include losing employment and educational opportunities, as well as the social stigma of having a DUI conviction on your criminal record.
Depending on the charge, the legal penalties for a DUI conviction in Virginia range from:
- Loss of driving privileges
- Fines and court costs
Fines can range from $500 to $2,500 depending on your BAC and number of previous DUI convictions. A DUI conviction for driving with a BAC between 0.15 and 0.20 carries a mandatory minimum period of incarceration of at least 5 days. The minimum for a second offense within 10 years is 10 days of mandatory incarceration. For a second offense within 5 years, the mandatory minimum incarceration is 20 days. This is in addition to any mandatory minimum time for other factors such as having a child in the car. For a third offense within 10 years, the minimum sentence is 90 days. A third offense within 5 years carries a minimum 6-month sentence. A fourth DUI conviction within 10 years will result in a mandatory minimum of 1 year in prison.
What are the ways to fight a DUI charge in Virginia?
If you are charged with a Virginia DUI, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove the case against you. A Virginia DUI attorney may be able to mount several defenses to attack the prosecutor’s case, negotiate for dismissal or reduced charges, and potentially avoid jail time. Although not all defenses will be available in every case, some of the common ways to fight a DUI charge in Virginia include:
- Challenging unlawful traffic stops and illegal searches or seizures
- Disputing field sobriety test results
- Offering non-alcohol, or non-drug related reasons for appearing impaired
Choose Walker Jones, PC
Being arrested for drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs does not mean that you will be convicted. There may be a number of possible defenses to your DUI charge, but time is of the essence. If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI or related offense, contact Virginia DUI defense lawyer John C. Clark, Esq. today.