A conviction for driving under the influence can change the course of your whole life. While DUI convictions can carry jail time, often the most concerning aspect of a conviction are the collateral consequences. Depending on the situation, you could lose your license, be required to install an ignition interlock device, report to a probation officer, and pay astronomical fines. At the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone, our Fairfax DUI defense attorney represents clients facing all types of DUI charges. We have extensive experience handling these complex cases and know what it takes to beat the charges you face.  

Is There a Difference Between a Virginia DUI and DWI?

When it comes to drunk driving charges, people often use the terms DUI and DWI interchangeably. In some states, these two terms actually refer to different crimes. But that is not the case in Virginia where a DUI and DWI both refer to the same underlying offense. Virginia Code § 18.2-266 outlines the state’s DUI laws. The text of the statute refers to both “driving under the influence” and “driving while intoxicated” interchangeably. The penalties for the sections referring to DUI and DWI are also identical.

However, some Fairfax DUI defense lawyers draw a distinction between DUI offenses and DWI offenses based on how the prosecution attempts to prove a driver’s alleged intoxication. When police officers pull you over and suspect you are under the influence, they almost always request that you take a chemical test. The initial test may be a preliminary breath test conducted on the side of the road. But if the test shows the presence of alcohol, officers typically order a more precise breath or blood test.

Assuming the officers followed the rules, the results of these tests are admissible in trial. Some Fairfax DUI defense attorneys refer to these cases as DWI cases. On the other hand, if you refused a chemical test or the government does not have test results for whatever reason, the government will have no direct evidence of your intoxication. These cases are known as “driving under the influence” cases.

While this is really a distinction without much of a difference, it does help illuminate the two ways that the government can bring drunk driving charges.

Defenses to Fairfax DUI Cases

After a Fairfax DUI arrest, it is natural to feel hopeless. After all, police pulled you over, asked you to take a breath test, and you failed. However, DUI cases are not that simple. Depending on the specific facts surrounding your arrest, you may have one or more defenses.

No Unsafe Driving

In some DUI cases, the government does not need to prove that you were actually impaired. However, this is only when the government has direct evidence that you were intoxicated, such as blood test results. If there are no chemical test results available, the government can still bring a case against you. But under those circumstances, the State has the burden of proving that you were not able to safely operate a motor vehicle at the time you were stopped.

No Operation

A judge or jury cannot convict you for a DUI offense unless you were “driving” a vehicle. The government doesn’t necessarily need to show that the car was moving, but it must present evidence that you had the ability to control the vehicle. So, for example, if you were in the driver’s seat but the keys were in the trunk, you may have an argument that you were not “driving.”

Motions to Suppress

Perhaps the most common (and successful) defense to Fairfax DUI charges involves challenging the government’s evidence. Police officers must respect your constitutional rights when investigating a DUI. This means that they must have probable cause or reasonable suspicion of a crime before pulling you over and asking you to take a chemical test. If police officers act on a hunch and can’t point to any evidence suggesting you were intoxicated, the test results may be inadmissible. Motions to suppress can also keep out statements you made to police officers or detectives without being advised of your rights.

Contact a Dedicated Fairfax DUI Defense Lawyer for Immediate Assistance

If you face DUI charges, it is imperative that you take the case seriously. Not only that, but you need a lawyer who will take your case as seriously as you do. At the Law Offices of Michael Pignone, we help good people get out of bad situations. We command an in-depth understanding of Virginia DUI laws and use this knowledge to help our clients get out from under the charges they face. Our criminal charges defense attorneys routinely handle other criminal cases throughout Fairfax, including drug crimes and traffic violations. Our legal practitioner also handles reckless driving cases. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a Fairfax DUI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Michael Pignone, call 703-775-4302. You can also reach us through our online contact form.