Facing a DUI charge can be daunting, especially if you have no criminal record. You probably realize that keeping your record clean is important. So you might wonder if Virginia has any first DUI laws on the books that might give you a break because you don’t have a record.
When people ask us about what can happen with their first-offense DUI charge, they often want to know if the case can be dismissed. A dismissal of the charges is a great result for anybody. However, the prosecutor or judge will not dismiss the case simply because it’s your first DUI. You need the help of an experienced and savvy DUI charges defense lawyer like Michael A. Pignone to help you get the best result possible.
First DUI Penalties in Virginia
Code of Virginia 18.2-270 establishes the penalties for a first-time DUI charge. Virginia classifies DUI as a Class 1 misdemeanor. That means you could spend up to one year in jail if you lose your case.
How could you lose your case? Under Virginia’s DUI law, you cannot drive while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. Additionally, you can’t drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. That means if you have a 0.08% BAC, you have violated the law, even if you don’t show any signs of intoxication.
Your BAC level will determine if you have to spend any time in jail if you lose your case. Virginia’s DUI law says that you have to go to jail for at least five days if your BAC was between 0.15% and 0.20%. Moreover, you have to go to jail for 10 days if your BAC was over 0.20%.
The minimum jail time increases if you have more than one conviction for DUI. And keep in mind that DUI convictions stay on your record forever and follow you from state to state. Moreover, you cannot get them expunged or sealed. That’s why it’s important to get the best legal advice possible to fight your first-time DUI charges.
First-Time DUI Fines
Virginia’s DUI penalty law says that each person convicted of DUI must pay a $250 fine. However, you may have to pay a lot more than that, especially if you have to reinstate your license.
The Virginia DMV requires you to pay reinstatement fees ranging from $145 to $220. You also have to prove that you have either SR22 or FR44 certificates of insurance from your auto insurer before you get your license back. Car insurance rates vary among companies. However, you will pay a lot more money for insurance after you have a DUI conviction.
Reinstating your suspended driver’s license means you have to take a driver improvement course. You have to pay for the course and show proof of completion to the DMV.
Additional Requirements for Reinstating Your License
Those aren’t the only requirements you need to complete to get your license reinstated. You have to attend and complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) as well. The VASAP curriculum teaches people about the dangers of driving while intoxicated. Attending VASAP is expensive, but you need to satisfy this requirement before you can get your license back.
VASAP is a 10-hour program that teaches people to empower themselves to change their behavior. VASAP tries to motivate people to change by giving them the tools they need to succeed. Ultimately, the goal of VASAP is to prevent people from ever operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol again.
VASAP also oversees Virginia’s ignition interlock program. Depending on the outcome of your case, you might have to install an ignition interlock system in every car that you drive as a condition of getting your license back.
You also need to pay the fees you owe to the jail or correctional facility. Finally, the DMV will not reinstate your license if you have not satisfied any child support orders.
Why Having the Right First-Time DUI Defense Lawyer Is Beneficial
From a purely economic standpoint, picking up a DUI charge is expensive. People who are tight on money might think it’s a good idea to represent themselves on a DUI charge. While this is understandable, you should not try to take on the government alone. Many of the Commonwealth’s attorneys receive specialized training on DUI prosecutions. In other words, they know what they’re doing. Having an aggressive DUI charges defense attorney in your corner will give you the edge you need against skilled and ambitious prosecutors.
How Can You Get Your DUI Case Dismissed?
A highly skilled and experienced DUI charges defense lawyer will create a defense tailored to the specific facts of your case. For instance, after reviewing all of the evidence, your lawyer might determine the police violated your rights. If so, your lawyer could argue that the judge should dismiss your case after suppressing unlawfully-seized evidence.
Also, successful challenges to scientific evidence might help get your case dismissed. Scientific evidence is not fool-proof. In fact, many things can go wrong with chemical tests. Therefore, you might have a tainted specimen or improperly followed procedures that render the test result invalid. The prosecutor might not have any evidence left if your attorney successfully argues to throw out unreliable scientific evidence.
Plea bargaining can also help you get your case dismissed. Prosecutors have the discretion to dismiss or enter a “nolle prosequi” in your case. That means the Commonwealth’s attorneys declined to prosecute your case. They might do that if they have a compelling reason.
Prosecutors may dismiss the top charge in exchange for your plea to a lesser charge. For example, the prosecutor may drop the DUI charge if you agree to plead guilty to reckless driving. Both sides win in this scenario. Your guilty plea saves the prosecutor the time and expense of taking your case to trial. You benefit because you won’t have a DUI on your record.
Find Out Why Experience Matters
Virginia DUI charges defense attorney Michael A. Pignone has over 25 years of experience in the Virginia legal system. He has defended more than 10,000 cases and has earned victories in thousands of cases from DUI to first-degree murder. Our team with the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone offers free consultations and is ready to fight for you. We are here for you 24/7 and treat you with the respect and dignity you deserve. Contact us today.