| Read Time: 4 minutes | DUI
DUI Laws

Drunk driving causes hundreds of fatalities on Virginia roadways each year. As a result, Virginia imposes strict penalties on those convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. However, not everyone arrested for DUI is guilty. Law enforcement must comply with strict rules during DUI investigations. If they fail to do so, you could negotiate with the prosecution for a favorable plea agreement. Consult with a DUI lawyer to discuss your options after an arrest. 

You need an experienced, knowledgeable DUI attorney who understands the complex and constantly evolving DUI laws. Michael Pignone has over 25 years of experience helping clients navigate their DUI charges. Contact us today.

Virginia Laws for DUI

The Code of Virginia § 18.2-266 prohibits you from driving or operating a vehicle if:

  • You are impaired by any combination of alcohol and drugs,
  • Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at or above 0.08%,
  • You are under the influence of a drug, or
  • You are under the influence of alcohol.

The legal limit for a typical driver is 0.08%. However, drivers under the age of 21 have a legal limit of 0.02%. If you are operating a commercial vehicle, the legal limit is 0.04%. 

DUI Penalties in Virginia

DUI penalties vary based on whether you have prior alcohol-related convictions on your criminal record.

A first-time DUI conviction carries the following possible penalties:

A second DUI conviction within ten years of the first conviction carries the following possible penalties:

  • Up to one year in jail,
  • Up to a $2,500 fine,
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device,
  • License revocation for three years, and
  • Completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program.

Offenders convicted of a third DUI within ten years of their first DUI conviction face the following potential penalties:

  • Up to five years in prison,
  • Up to a $2,500 fine,
  • Vehicle forfeiture, 
  • License revocation for an indefinite period,
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device once driving privileges are restored, and
  • Completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program.

Depending on the length of time between your prior DUI convictions, offenders convicted of a third DUI face up to 90 days of mandatory prison time and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. A third DUI conviction is a felony.

A fourth or fifth DUI conviction results in a mandatory one-year prison term and a mandatory fine of at least $1,000.

Potential Legal Defenses After DUI Arrests

A qualified criminal defense lawyer can help determine if a legal defense applies in your case. A valid defense can result in getting your charges reduced or dismissed entirely, depending on the facts of your case. Contact the Law Offices of Michael Pignone today so we can review your case.

Lack of Implied Consent Advisement

Many individuals charged with DUI are not aware of their rights. Police officers are required to notify individuals they suspect of driving under the influence of certain information before conducting a blood or breath test. If you refuse to submit to the test, you can face additional charges for refusal and lose your license for a mandatory period. However, you must be advised of Virginia’s implied consent law for these consequences to take effect.

Additionally, a driver must be advised of their Miranda rights once they are arrested. Otherwise, statements made to the arresting officer could be excluded by a judge.

Field Sobriety Test Issues

Police officers conduct field sobriety tests at the scene of an accident or traffic stop in an attempt to ascertain if the driver is under the influence. Field sobriety tests include a variety of mental and physical tasks that are designed to alert police officers to intoxication.

The tests were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to help officers determine if a driver should be arrested for DUI. But the NHTSA admits the tests are not entirely accurate, even when conducted correctly. When field sobriety tests are conducted incorrectly, the likelihood of inaccurate results is even more likely. These tests leave significant room for the discretion of the officer to creep into their decision making. 

Virginia drivers are not required by law to submit to field sobriety tests. If you agreed to submit to field sobriety tests and were later arrested for DUI, an attorney may be able to challenge the officer’s perception of your impairment if the tests were not conducted correctly.

Breath or Blood Test Malfunctions

Chemical tests designed to ascertain an individual’s BAC are not perfect. The machines that collect breath samples from defendants need to be regularly re-calibrated and checked for accuracy. Lack of proper maintenance and operator error can lead to inaccurate results. If authorities obtained your BAC without administering the test correctly or with a machine that was not properly maintained, a DUI defense lawyer can argue to have your charges dismissed.

Illegal Traffic Stop

Law enforcement officers conducting a traffic stop must have a “reasonable suspicion” that you are violating the law to make the stop. Violations that permit an officer to pull you over include equipment violations or minor traffic infractions, in addition to indications of driving under the influence. Common signs of impairment include:

  • Driving too slow for the road conditions,
  • Failure to keep the car in one lane,
  • Failure to use turn signals, and
  • Slow reaction to road conditions.

If an officer charged you with DUI but did not have reasonable suspicion to make the initial traffic stop, this could result in any evidence gathered at the scene being excluded from your trial. 

When freedom and liberty are at stake, improperly conducted  DUI investigations can create an unfair advantage for the prosecution. That is why you need an experienced DUI attorney who can recognize any potential legal defense that applies to your case. 

Need Help Understanding Virginia DUI Laws? Contact the Law Offices of Michael Pignone Today

A DUI conviction can lead to jail time, large fines and court costs, and the loss of your driving privileges. We understand the stress and concerns that come from facing DUI charges. Let our team at the Law Offices of Michael Pignone help you with your case. Contact our office online or by phone today to speak to an attorney.

Author Photo

Michael Pignone

Michael Pignone was raised and has lived in Prince William County since 1972. He attended public schools in the county and graduated high school from Osbourn High in Manassas. Following high school, he attended George Mason University where he graduated with honors from the Business School with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance. He was then accepted into, and graduated with honors from, Suffolk Law School in Boston, Massachusetts. Before entering private practice, he clerked for the Prosecutor in the Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

Rate this Post

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars