Fighting a Driving Under the Influence Charge in Virginia
Virginia has some of the toughest drinking and driving laws in the country. A couple of drinks at dinner could change your life if you get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Conviction of a first offense DWI will mean the loss of your license for at least one year, fines up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail. Even if you avoid going to jail, the court will order you to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle and attend an alcohol counseling program.
A source of confusion among motorists is the difference between DUI and DWI. The Code of Virginia refers to the offense of drinking and driving as either driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence. As a result, either DUI or DWI is used as a shortened name for the offense.
DUI is not limited to offenses stemming from the consumption of alcohol. Much of what is written about this charge relates to alcohol consumption, but operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs will subject you to the same penalties.
Understanding a DUI Offense and What the Commonwealth Must Prove
The law considers you to be legally intoxicated if your blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or higher. BAC is measured by your submitting a sample for testing any of the following:
Prosecutors armed with a chemical analysis proving your BAC to be within the range of intoxication can convict you of the charge without having to offer other evidence of intoxication. The only additional evidence required is to prove that you were operating a motor vehicle at the time the police officer stopped and arrested you.
Refusing to provide a sample for testing is not an option available to you in Virginia. If you refuse to submit to a test for BAC, your driver’s license can be suspended for one year, and you will be fined $500. This is an administrative charge which means that the fines and suspension are in addition to whatever happens with your DUI charge.
A second offense of refusing to submit to chemical testing is a Class 2 misdemeanor for which you could lose your license for up to three years. Keep in mind that any license suspension for a test refusal is in addition to the suspension imposed if you are convicted of the DUI, and you cannot get a restricted license to drive to and from work or school during period of suspension for the test refusal.
Harsh Penalties Associated with a Conviction for Drinking and Driving
A DUI conviction will stay on your record for at least 10 years. Any additional drunk driving offenses during that ten-year period will result in the severity of the charges filed against you and the penalties associated with them increasing. The following are examples of why you should be represented by one of our DUI attorneys:
- First offense DUI: Misdemeanor with fines up to $2,500 with a mandatory minimum of $250, one year license suspension and mandatory minimum jail sentence of at least five days if your BAC was above 0.15 percent
- Second DUI in five years: Misdemeanor punishable by at least 20 days in jail and mandatory minimum fine of $500
- Third DUI in five years: Felony punishable by at least six months in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000
If you are facing a DUI charge in Virginia, our attorneys can help you. Their knowledge of the drinking and driving laws and their courtroom experience make them formidable defenders of your rights.