Getting pulled over for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is scary. And with good reason: Virginia is known to have some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the nation. Of course, the best way to avoid a DUI is to make good choices. Don’t drink and drive, even if you’ve just had a few, and use a designated driver system. But everyone makes mistakes. The most important things to remember are: stay calm, know your rights and get a lawyer right away.
What Should I Keep In Mind If I Get Pulled Over for DUI?
The first few minutes of a stop can set the tone for the encounter and impact the outcome. Here are a few steps to follow if you get pulled over for DUI:
- Stay in your car.
- Be respectful and follow the officer’s directions.
- Answer the officer’s questions to the best of your ability, but do not offer information voluntarily. You are not required to give any information about how much you had to drink. Remaining silent is often the best approach.
- Stay calm and take notes about the stop if possible. Written notes can help you later on.
- Field sobriety tests like walk-and-turn, one-leg standing and eye tests are not required. You can refuse these tests if you’re pulled over. Field tests are subjective and often give too much personal discretion to the officer. Also, many drivers fail these tests because of causes not related to alcohol. Officers may imply that you are helping yourself by taking these tests, don’t take the bait.
- A hand-held preliminary breath test during the stop is also not mandatory. You can refuse this test in the field. The officer is required to offer you the test. However, be aware that the officer can still arrest you if they believe you’re intoxicated.
What Do I Need To Know If I’m Arrested for DUI?
- If the officer arrests you for DUI, they are required to read your Miranda rights if they question you afterward. In practice, however, Miranda rights are often NOT read in a DUI case. Our experienced attorneys can help you understand why.
- Unlike the pre-arrest breath test in the field, if you are arrested for DUI, you must take a blood or breath test or you will face an additional charge called “unreasonable refusal.” Depending on the circumstances of your case, it may be best for you to refuse the test after arrest as well and fight the case later.
- Be aware that if you are arrested for DUI in Virginia, there’s a strong chance you’ll have to spend a short amount of time in jail immediately after being charged. The local adult detention center, or jail, will typically hold arrested persons until they reach 0.00 on a hand-held blood alcohol test.
Do I Need A Lawyer If I Get A DUI?
Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer is the best way to improve the outcome of a DUI case. A strong attorney may be able to get charges dismissed or reduced. If you are convicted, an experienced lawyer can also help mitigate the consequences. One mistake many drivers make is hiring a lawyer too late in the process and waiting until the court date approaches. Hiring a lawyer right after your arrest gives you the best chance for a positive outcome.
An experienced defense attorney understands the ins and outs of breathalyzer and blood tests and should be well-versed in challenging DUI tests given in the field and police procedure, both leading up to and during the stop. Waiting to hire an attorney may limit your chances of getting charges dropped or reduced.
What Can Happen to Me If I’m Arrested for DUI in Virginia?
Virginia takes drunk driving seriously. A DUI conviction in our Commonwealth is a criminal misdemeanor instead of a traffic offense as in some states. It’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 or greater. It is also illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol. The consequences of a DUI depend largely on your blood alcohol level and whether you are a first-time or repeat offender.
- Expect to lose your license temporarily before your court date. Most first-time DUI offenders get a seven-day license suspension (after arrest) for the first offense. For the second offense, the suspension is 60 days or until your trial.
- In Virginia, the first DUI offense is a misdemeanor, with a minimum $250 fine and a maximum fine of $2500, up to a year in jail, and a one-year license suspension.
- The second offense is also a misdemeanor with greater penalties. If you’re convicted, you’ll face a minimum of a $500 fine, up to a year in jail, and a three-year license suspension. You will also face mandatory jail time for a second offense and that jail time may increase depending on the date of your second offense and other aggravating factors.
- A third offense is a felony with a minimum of a $1,000 fine and up to five years in jail. You could also face an indefinite license suspension if you receive multiple DUIs within 10 years.
- Active jail time on a first offense DUI is not mandatory however, it is common for small jail sentences to accompany even non-mandatory cases. This is especially true when there are aggravating circumstances like an excessively high BAC or an accident with injuries. However, Virginia does put in place certain mandatory punishments for a first-time DUI conviction. These include:
- A fine of at least $250.
- License suspension for one year.
- Ignition interlock on your vehicle for at least six months.
- A mandatory alcohol education class through VASAP.
DUI In Virginia: Your Lawyer Makes A Difference
If you’re convicted of DUI in Virginia, it becomes a part of your criminal record and affects your driving record and insurance rates. While Virginia judges take DUI cases seriously, DUI charges may be challenged because of officer error or testing problems. Your lawyer may get charges reduced to a reckless driving charge if the facts warrant such a reduction, so discuss your options with experienced, local counsel right away. If you’re convicted, your attorney can help you reduce and possibly avoid jail time and obtain a restricted license to go to work, school, daycare, and alcohol education classes.
The bottom line is that your case has a much better chance of being dismissed or reduced if you have a competent, confident, and experienced defense lawyer on your side. Every judge, officer, and jurisdiction in the Commonwealth is different, so understanding the local landscape is also essential. The Laurel Brigade Law group has decades of experience in Loudoun County criminal law and a deep understanding of the unique sentencing options in place, the factors the court considers when making determinations about evidence, and the science behind breath and blood test results. That experience, along with a firm foothold in the community, allows our top-notch team to approach and defend DUI cases from every angle to protect our clients’ livelihoods and reputations.