Drunk driving offenses are aggressively prosecuted in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Even a first-time offense can result in harsh financial penalties, loss of driving privileges, and even jail time. If you have been charged with a DUI, it is important to secure knowledgeable and skilled legal representation. Those who speak to an experienced Virginia DUI attorney as soon as possible have a much higher likelihood of a successful outcome in their case.
Blood alcohol concentration limits
Virginia refers to drunk driving as DUI or driving under the influence, and typically measures DUI by blood alcohol concentration (BAC.) In the commonwealth of Virginia, the blood alcohol content limits for a person twenty-one years or older is .08%. If you are younger than 21, the legal limit is .02%. For commercial drivers the BAC limit is .04%.
Administrative license suspension
A first offense DUI charge results in an administrative license suspension for 7 days. If charged as a DUI, second offense, the administrative suspension is for 60 days.
Virginia DUI penalties vary depending on whether this is a first offense or if you’ve had previous DUI convictions. If you’ve been convicted of a DUI offense in the past, the court will consider the number of convictions, the time period in which they occurred, and the BAC at the time of arrest.
A first DUI offense is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor and punishment will include the following:
- $250 – $2500 fine
- Up to 12 months in jail
Additionally a conviction comes with other requirements to include
- License revocation for 1 year (with a restricted license potentially authorized upon installation of an ignition interlock device), and
- Court-ordered attendance of Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) classes
If you are an adult, but younger than 21 years charged with a DUI you face a minimum $500 fine, or minimum 50 hours of community service.
Subsequent DUI convictions will include all first offense penalties outlined above, but also include additional mandatory jail time, significantly higher fines, and longer license suspensions or revocation, and may also include felony charges.
A DUI conviction with a BAC of .15% or above, or driving under the influence with a minor in the car will result in mandatory jail time.
Should you take a roadside sobriety test?
When law enforcement asks you to get out of the vehicle to conduct a roadside sobriety test or standardized field sobriety test, it is to provide evidence that you are intoxicated. You may refuse. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, there are no additional penalties for refusing to take the field sobriety test. Refusing to submit to the test may help your case by giving the prosecutor “less evidence” to show that you were driving under the influence. However, it is likely if you refuse to take the test, the officer will arrest you.
The preliminary breath test (PBT)
A police officer will typically ask you if you would agree to take a preliminary breath test, explaining that the results cannot be used as evidence against you. While this is true, a breath test result above the legal limit will be used a probable cause for your arrest, and if requested properly, limits your ability to challenge the arrest through a motion to suppress.
Should you take a breathalyzer test?
Upon arrival to the police station or detention center, the police officer will read you the “implied consent statute” which means that, because you travel upon the public roads of Virginia you consent to a breath test upon a valid arrest. If you do not take the test, you will likely be charged with refusal, which means that, if convicted you will lose your privilege to drive for one year without the possibility of a restricted license. Additionally, you will also likely be charged with the DUI. If you have had a prior DUI or a prior refusal conviction, a refusal may be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor. Upon a refusal the police may also opt to seek a search warrant to conduct a blood draw, usually transporting you to a local hospital.
There are certainly legal challenges to the results of a breath test, however, overtime the improvements in the certification process and quality control of the machines has limited the success of these challenges.
Speak to an experienced Virginia DUI defense lawyer
Being charged with DUI is a serious offense that carries severe penalties that can affect your freedom and your bank account. A DUI conviction may impact your ability to find a job or maintain employment, especially if a clean driving record or the absence of a criminal record is a job requirement. You can expect your car insurance rate to increase significantly, you may even be dropped by your insurer, or have difficulty obtaining auto insurance coverage. The most important thing you can do if arrested for a DUI, is contact a criminal defense attorney with expertise in DUI cases.
About Sparrow Miller PLLC
Attorneys Dusty Sparrow-Reed and William Miller practice criminal defense and family law. They bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and trial experience to the table. They understand that all cases are “big” to the individual at risk or experiencing the breakdown of their marriage and family. “We have the wisdom and experience that you’re looking for to ensure your interests are protected, and the legal skills to get the job done.”