Driving under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, or a DUI is a very serious crime in Virginia. One of the first questions clients ask is whether they can have the charge reduced or how they can have it dismissed. It is very rare that at a DUI charge is reduced and when it does happen, it requires extremely persuasive evidence. Having the charge dismissed requires skillful litigation and knowledge of the correct procedure before and after the arrest. This is definitely not the type of charge that you should risk representing yourself on. A conviction carries harsh penalties and remains on your record for the rest of your life. It can have an impact on employment, the ability to qualify for certain loans, insurance and your reputation.
What are the penalties for a DUI?
For a first offense, there is a minimum fine of $250 and a license suspension of 12 months. If your BAC is over .15 then there is also a minimum of 5 days in jail. If your BAC is over .20 then there is a minimum of 10 days in jail.
For a second offense there is a minimum fine of $500, up to one year in jail, and a license suspension of 3 years. If the second offense occurs within 10 years, there is a mandatory 10 days in jail. If the second offense occurs within less than five years, there is a mandatory 20-days in jail. A BAC over .15 comes with a minimum penalty of 10 days in jail. If your BAC is over .20 there is a minimum penalty of 20 days in jail.
A third offense is a class 6 felony. It carries the potential for 6 months in jail if third offense is within five years, along with a $1,000 fine and a license revocation for an indefinite period of time.
A fourth or subsequent offense carries mandatory jail time of one year.
A conviction for DUI will also require the defendant to take VASAP. If they qualify for a restricted driver’s license, they will also be required to have the ignition interlock system installed into their vehicle. This is essentially a breathalyzer that the driver must blow into to start the vehicle. They also must blow into it periodically during longer car rides. The driver must pay for installation and also for monthly maintenance. As you can see, being convicted of a DUI is expensive, inconvenient and time-consuming.
What if I refused to blow into the breathalyzer?
There are two different breathalyzers during a DUI stop and arrest. The first one is the preliminary breath test, or PBT which is offered at the scene. There are no consequences for refusing the PBT. The purpose of it is for the police officer to obtain enough probable cause to arrest you for a DUI. Refusing the test does not mean that the officer cannot arrest you. The test is just one more piece of evidence that the officer can use to support his belief that you are under the influence. The results of the PBT are not admissible in court.
The second breathalyzer occurs at the police station after the DUI arrest. If you refuse this test you may be charged under Virginia’s Implied Consent Law. The penalty for that is sometimes worse for people than the DUI’s consequences. A conviction under this law means that your license will be suspended for one year with no option for a restricted license. A second offense means a suspension for three years. Very often a driver’s refusal is used as leverage against them to plead guilty to the DUI in exchange for a dismissal of the refusal charge. Since most people cannot go a full year without being able to drive, it leaves many drivers with little to no choice.
What can a lawyer do for me in my DUI case?
DUI law is extremely complex. There is more to it than simply whether someone was under the influence or not. Officers must carry out the stops in a very specific manner. There are some field sobriety tests which are easy to get thrown out in court. Officers sometimes make mistakes or do not follow the required protocol. An attorney can use all of these nuances to your advantage in court. It is nerve-wracking to be charged with a DUI. An attorney will help guide you and best prepare you for trial so that you stand the best chance of protecting your rights.
Please call our office to schedule your consultation for a DUI today.