If police arrested you for your first DUI in Virginia, you are probably worried about what could happen to you and what you should do next. Facing a DUI charge can be a harrowing and stressful experience. However, having the right lawyer for your case can make a tremendous difference for you and your family.
Working with a skilled, experienced, and successful Virginia DUI defense lawyer can help you beat your charges or benefit from a reduced sentence. In northern Virginia, DUI defense attorney Michael A. Pignone has fought on behalf of people charged with DUI since 1995. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone today to find out what we can do for you. Place your trust in our experience and track record of success while we fight to reduce the impact these charges could have on your life.
First-Time DUI Charge in Virginia
Since this is your first offense, you should understand what DUI is and the first-time DUI penalties contained in Virginia’s DUI law.
What Is DUI?
Virginia’s DUI law prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater. When police suspect you of driving under the influence, they mean that alcohol, drugs, or both have impaired your ability to drive a motor vehicle safely.
The prosecutor can also use chemical test results to prove that you violated the law. Remember that Virginia has an implied consent law. This means that—by taking advantage of the privilege of driving—you automatically consent to take a chemical test if the police arrest you for suspicion of DUI. You can refuse the chemical test. However, the prosecutor could use your refusal against you in court to show that you knew you were intoxicated or that your BAC was at least 0.08%.
Difference Between DUI and Driving with a 0.08% BAC
The difference between the two theories of convicting someone for DUI lies in the proof offered at trial. If there is no chemical test, the prosecutor will look for other evidence obtained by police to prove that you drove under the influence, such as:
- Weaving across marked lanes,
- Slowing and speeding up randomly,
- Committing moving violations,
- Causing or nearly causing an accident, and
- Driving dangerously.
Law enforcement officers will look for these indicators to pull you over on a suspected DUI.
After they pull you over, the officers will attempt to establish whether you are intoxicated. They will look for additional signs like:
- Bloodshot and watery eyes,
- Slurred or confused speech,
- Difficulty understanding directions,
- Acting belligerent,
- Being overly emotional,
- Possessing an open container of alcohol in the car,
- Having trouble locating a driver’s license and proof of insurance,
- Trouble exiting the car,
- Poor performance on the field sobriety tests, and
- The smell of alcohol.
There are numerous signs of intoxication police watch out for when they pull you over.
Driving after consuming alcohol is not a crime as long as the alcohol does not affect your driving ability and your BAC stays below 0.08%.
The prosecutor has to prove that you took a valid chemical test for the results to come into evidence at your trial. If not, the judge can keep the test results out. For example, the prosecutor has to prove the machine used to measure your BAC was in working order and operated by trained personnel at the time of your test. Failing that, the result is unreliable and inadmissible. Keep in mind that the prosecutor can still use the police officer’s observations to prove that you drove under the influence.
First-time DUI penalties in Virginia are stiff, even though the charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor. After a conviction for your first DUI, you could go to jail for up to one year. Additionally, you will have to serve five days in jail if your chemical test results are between 0.15% and 0.20%. You must serve at least 10 days if your chemical test result is over 0.20%.
You will have to pay a minimum fine of $250, but it could be as high as $2,500 for your first DUI conviction. The court will order you to attend the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP). VASAP will monitor you while you serve one year of probation. VASAP will determine if you need treatment or alcohol education classes during that time.
Your license will be suspended for seven days if your BAC is over 0.08% or you refuse to take the chemical test. The court can revoke your license for one year after a conviction. You might be able to get a restricted license if you install an ignition interlock device on your car and pay all of the fees.
Possible Defenses for Your First DUI in Virginia
Even if you have never been in trouble before, you probably know that the repercussions of a drunk driving conviction could alter your life. But, before you start worrying about what could happen—remember that you enjoy the presumption of innocence. You don’t have to prove your innocence. Instead, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove you guilty of each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, you are not automatically guilty just because the police charged you with DUI, even if it feels that way.
One way to defend your case is to argue that the police had no right to stop you in the first place. DUI stops are fact specific. That means the judge could throw the case out if they find that the police did not have enough factual evidence to stop you. Demonstrating flaws in the chemical test, showing that the operator was untrained, or that the officer rushed to judgment are other ways to defend a DUI charge.
Facing Your First DUI In Virginia?
The Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone are ready to fight for you. Since 1995, Virginia DUI defense lawyer Michael A. Pignone has defended over 5,000 clients facing serious criminal offenses like DUI. You can rely on his experience to make a difference for you. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone today for a free consultation.