Prince William County is a great place to call home. But last year, we saw the highest number of traffic fatalities that we’ve seen in a decade, and law enforcement is still trying to figure out why. And even though speeding appears to be the biggest cause of crashes, police are trying to keep our residents safe by cracking down on drivers who commit traffic infractions at all levels. This includes keeping a sharp eye out for people driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Aside from getting into an accident, the blue-and-red lights of a police cruiser are most drivers’ worst fear. And for a good reason. A DUI conviction can result in spending time in jail and losing your license for a year or more. But just because you face DUI charges does not mean that you are guilty, and it certainly doesn’t mean you will be convicted. There are many potential defenses to Prince William County DUI charges; it’s just a matter of determining which ones apply in your case. At the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone, our Prince William County DUI defense attorney can help you fight your charges and avoid the serious consequences that come along with a conviction.

Virginia DUI Law

DUI case handled by a lawyer in Prince William County.

In Virginia, it is against the law to drive with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher. It is also illegal to drive with any amount of illegal drugs in your system. In the case of a BAC over .08% or a positive drug test, it doesn’t matter if the drugs actually impaired your driving ability.

It is also illegal to drive while under the influence of prescription or over-the-counter medication. However, in these cases, the prosecution must show that the drug impaired your ability to operate a vehicle. Prosecutors may try to prove impairment through a combination of police officer testimony and proof of the amount of drugs in your system. For example, prosecutors may point to any of the following when trying to show you were impaired:

  • Slurred speech;
  • The presence of alcohol or drugs in the vehicle;
  • Red, bloodshot, or glassy eyes;
  • The smell of alcohol, marijuana, or another drug; and
  • Statements you make to the police officer.

Of course, a police officer’s testimony is just one type of evidence allowed in a DUI trial. There are often innocent explanations for some of these factors, and an experienced Prince William County DUI defense lawyer can help explain that to the judge or jury.

Punishment and Sentences for Prince William County DUI Offenses

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a violation of the state’s criminal laws. Thus, unlike some other types of traffic tickets that you can pay and forget about, a DUI conviction exposes you to some pretty serious consequences.

The seriousness of a Prince William County DUI offense depends on a few things:

  • Your blood-alcohol level;
  • Whether you have any prior convictions;
  • If your license was suspended at the time;
  • Whether you caused an accident; and
  • Whether a child was in the car.

After a DUI conviction, the judge has discretion in sentencing. However, there are limits to a judge’s discretion. For example, a first-time DUI in Prince William County requires the judge to impose at least these minimum penalties:

  • A fine of at least $250;
  • 12-month license suspension;
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for six months (if you request and obtain a restricted license); and
  • Alcohol education class.

On the other hand, the maximum penalty a judge can impose for a first-time DUI includes all of the above, plus up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

Regardless of the sentence imposed, the court will also notify the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of your conviction. The DMV then adds demerit points to your driving record. In most DUI cases, the DMV adds six demerit points for a DUI conviction. If these points put you over your limit, the DMW imposes a separate administrative suspension. This suspension doesn’t begin until after the court-imposed suspension ends.

Penalties for Underage DUI and Fatal DUI in Virginia

Virginia’s DUI penalties can change based on the circumstances of your case. For example, the state imposes a lower legal alcohol limit for drivers under 21 years old. Instead of the typical BAC limit of .08%, underage drivers have a legal limit of .02%. A first-time underage DUI qualifies as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The punishment must include:

  • 12-month license suspension; and
  • Minimum $500 fine or a minimum or 50 hours of community service.

Virginia’s DUI penalties also change when a person dies as a result of a drunk driver’s conduct. If a person, as a result of driving under the influence, unintentionally causes the death of another person, they are guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter is a Class 5 felony, which carries the possibility of between one and ten years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. If the defendant’s conduct was “so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, the defendant commits aggravated involuntary manslaughter, which carries a prison sentence between one and 20 years.

Fatal DUI penalties impose significantly longer sentences than those for a customary DUI charge. If you are charge with a fatal DUI, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

What If I Refuse a Chemical Test in Virginia?

Virginia imposes an implied consent law. That means by driving on Virginia roads, you automatically give consent to submit to a chemical test to determine whether you were driving under the influence if you were arrested for DUI. The implied consent law applies whether you have a Virginia driver’s license or an out-of-state license.

If you refuse to submit to testing, you will face added penalties, including a one-year administrative license suspension. Additionally, the prosecutor may use your refusal as evidence at trial to demonstrate your guilt. 

The implied consent law applies only to the chemical blood or breath test the officer conducts after your arrest. It does not apply to a portable breath test (PBT) or to roadside sobriety maneuvers.

If you have questions or concerns about Virginia’s implied consent law, reach out to the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone today. A Prince William County DUI lawyer can walk you through the meaning of implied consent and explain the potential penalties for violating the law.

What Is an Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock device is a portable breathalyzer that is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle. To start the vehicle, the driver must blow into the device. If the driver’s BAC exceeds .02%, this will result in a failed test and the vehicle will not start. After a DUI conviction, you lose your driver’s license for an entire year. However, you can obtain a restricted license as long as you install a certified ignition interlock system. During the time your driving privileges are restricted, you are prohibited from operating a vehicle without an ignition interlock device installed. Convicted drivers are responsible for installing their ignition interlock device in their vehicle and paying the fee required to maintain the device.

If you have questions about ignition interlock requirements in Virginia, contact a Prince William County DUI defense attorney right away. A lawyer can answer your questions about ignition interlock devices and help determine if you will need one installed on your vehicle.

What Is the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program? 

Even your first Virginia DUI conviction will result in mandatory participation in the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP). ASAP is a state-wide program that establishes driver education and rehabilitation protocols to reduce the number of highway tragedies, especially those caused by impaired drivers. Some of ASAPs offered programs include:

  • Community service programs,
  • Driver improvement programs,
  • DUI court,
  • Intervention interviews,
  • Reckless or aggressive driver programs, and
  • Young offender programs.

Virginia maintains 24 ASAPs throughout the state. A Prince William County DUI attorney can help you determine if you must attend an ASAP program to satisfy the requirements of your conviction.

How Much Does a Prince William County DUI Lawyer Cost?

An attorney handling a DUI defense case in Prince William County.

After a DUI arrest, it’s common to wonder what the whole ordeal is going to cost you. A significant part of the cost of a DUI comes from the money you pay a lawyer to represent you. Lawyers differ in how they charge clients in DUI cases. Some attorneys use flat fees while others charge by the hour. According to one source, DUI lawyers charge in the range of $1,000 to $5,000 to handle a case. Of course, this is a wide range, and the exact amount that an attorney charges often depends on the complexity of the case. It can also depend on whether your case settles at the plea bargain stage or not. That just makes sense because taking a case to trial is labor-intensive, and therefore, typically costs a bit more.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Veteran Prince William County DUI Defense Attorney

If you face DUI charges in Prince William County, reach out to the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone for immediate assistance. Prince William County DUI Attorney Pignone has extensive experience handling DUIs from both the defense and prosecution side. Therefore, he knows what it takes to defend against even the toughest cases. For more than 10 years, Attorney Pignone has successfully represented clients charged with all types of DUI offenses and looks forward to discussing how he can help you with your case.

Our experienced legal practitioner also handles other types of cases, including:

To learn more and to schedule a free consultation today, call us. You can also reach us through our online contact form.