A standard set of actions take place in all DUI charges in Virginia. The process begins with the initial police stop. A law enforcement officer will claim to have observed some type of driving behavior that could indicate alcohol or drug intoxication, such as speeding, weaving, wrong-way driving, or the police stop could be related to some other infraction, and once stopped, the police become suspicious that the driver is DUI.
In most cases, the police will ask a few questions, such as “have you been drinking?” or something similar. Ordinarily, they will look for simple evidence such as the smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech or other evidence. The driver will then be asked to perform several field sobriety tests. The purpose of these tests is to gain more evidence of drunk driving. Note that you are not legally required to perform these tests. You are required to submit to the chemical testing, whether blood, urine or breath.
If you Refuse the Chemical Test
If you refuse the chemical test, the officer must inform you of the consequences if you refuse. These consequences include license revocation for 1 year. You will then be asked a second time to submit. If you again refuse, you will lose your license, with no opportunity for a restricted license during that period of time.
The field sobriety tests are administered to determine if you are under the influence. There are three specific tests that are most often administered, the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus, considered the most accurate, with about 77% accuracy in identifying an intoxicated driver.
After the field sobriety tests, if it is believed that you have been driving drunk, you will be subjected to a chemical test, most often the breath test. If you blow at .08% or higher, you will be arrested, taken to the police station and booked. You will be held until you appear in court, at which point bail will be set or you will be released on your own recognizance. When you appear in court, you will be formally charged with DUI, and you have the option to plead guilty or not guilty.
Guilty or not guilty?
If you plead guilty, you will then face the punishment that the court imposes upon you. If you plead not guilty, a trial date will be set. It is advised that you speak with a Virginia DUI lawyer from our firm before you make a decision. Serious errors could have taken place in your case at any point, from an illegal police stop to errors in the arrest process, to faulty equipment or other errors. It is dangerous to appear in court at any time without an attorney representing you as the situation can get out of control quickly. If you are convicted, or plead guilty, you can expect certain penalties to be imposed, including a mandatory fine of $250, and based upon your BAC level, you could face a mandatory minimum of 5 or 10 days in jail.
Your license will be revoked, and if you have no prior DUI convictions on record, you could gain restricted driving privileges. To gain a restricted license, you have several requirements that must be fulfilled with regard to your auto insurance. For a second offense, expect a much more difficult legal problem, as your jail sentence will be longer, and to gain a restricted license, you will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in any vehicle you drive, at your own cost. A third offense will be charged as a felony.
Contact our Virginia DUI lawyer at the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone immediately if you have been arrested and charged with DUI. We will review every detail of your case and craft a strategy to help you seek to avoid the consequences of a conviction.