DUI and reckless driving charges are commonly cited in Arlington, Va. While you may not think you will require legal counsel for such charges, there are a number of facts you should consider before ruling an attorney out. Please feel free to use the following information as an informal guide to the most commonly asked questions regarding reckless driving and DUI in Arlington.
The legislature applied a new sentencing schedule in January, 2014 that takes into account a suspect’s blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, level. It also takes into account the number of convictions he or she has received over a 15 year period and whether or not there were any children in the vehicle at the time of the alleged incident.
First conviction penalties can be as extreme as 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500 along with a one year license suspension. A second conviction can produce the same maximum fine and jail time – of which up to 40 days could be imposed as a mandatory minimum sentence – and you may see your license suspended for three years. Third and subsequent offenses can result in the full $2,500 fine and a mandatory minimum of six months in jail. Your driver’s license will also be indefinitely suspended See VCC § 18.2-270. The new penalty for underage driving (those under the age of 21) is a minimum $500 fine, a one year license suspension, and 50 hours of community service: V.C.C § 18.2-266.1. If it’s a second conviction, that community service term may be longer. Most DUI convictions also require completion of a mandatory drug or alcohol abuse awareness program.
If he or she “probable cause” you can be stopped anytime. This is not hard for officers to establish in the Commonwealth. It’s usually based on your observed driving behavior, though some people have been stopped based on complaints or tips phoned into law enforcement officials.
If you are asked to take any field sobriety tests (FSTs), you may refuse to do so but this should always be done in a respectful manner. The results of such tests are often cited as probable cause for an arrest, though those who refuse tests are almost always guaranteed to be arrested. It may be in your best interest to refuse a test if you believe your BAC will test result in an extremely high reading as this can be used against you if you are charged. If, however, you have already submitted to such a test, a qualified Arlington DUI lawyer may be able to challenge the results of those tests. He will look at the several factors, including whether or not the equipment was property maintained and calibrated.
Your driver’s license is automatically suspended for a year [VCC § 18.2-268.3]. If convicted, you cannot qualify for a restricted driver’s license under any circumstances for a year.
Many times, if you’ve been convicted, it’s possible to be granted a restricted license. This allows you to drive on a limited basis; such as to-and-from work, to doctor and medical appoints, and for other essential trips. See V.C.C. § 18.2-271.1. You may have to wait for a certain period of time before you receive your restricted license.
For those with prior convictions and/or those with high BAC results, the court may order installation of an ignition interlock device. Having an ignition interlock device may be required in cases where one is applying for a restricted license. You must pay for its installation and all associated fees, which includes mandated monthly maintenance.
Sentencing enhancements are, essentially, greater punishments if there are aggravating circumstances surrounding any criminal offense. For DUI, it means more mandatory minimum jail time if certain aggravating circumstances exist, such as:
Aggressive driving is driving which is viewed as causing a hazard to another person or is intended to “harass, intimidate, injure, or obstruct” another. While reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor, aggressive driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor. However, aggressive driving with the intent to injure another person is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. See V.C.C.§ 46.2-868.1.
Some of the violations that can lead to a charge of aggressive driving include:
Because it involves driving offenses that are defined as “driving at a speed, or in a manner [that] endanger[s] . . . life, limb, or property” reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor, making it comparable to a DUI charge. There are more than a dozen behaviors that are listed in the Commonwealth code that qualify as reckless driving. These include
According to the Virginia criminal code, any individual who is found guilty of reckless driving will receive a fine no greater than $2,500 and/or up to one year in jail. Your license will be suspended up to six months and you’ll have six demerit points assessed to your driver’s license that will remain there for many years. See V.C.C. 46.2-868 (A).
If you are convicted of reckless driving, and either of the following circumstances applies to your case, it is a Class 6 Felony [V.C.C. § 18.2-10 (v)] rather than a Class 1 Misdemeanor [V.C.C. 46.2-868]:
Yes: if you file within 10 days of the conviction. We all have the right to appeal any verdict against us. But if you plead guilty and didn’t like the result, your right of appeal most likely was waived and no longer exists. Appeals in Virginia mean a new case is tried (the original verdict is set-aside) and rather than take place in General District Court, it is heard in Circuit Court. You can request a jury trial. Before deciding to appeal, have a serious conversation with your lawyer.
Since many of these tickets are for excessive speed, most of them occur on Arlington’s major highways (I-66, I-395 and the Lee Highway). This is one reason why many inattentive, out-of-state drivers can be charged with reckless driving offenses in Arlington.
You can petition the court in which you were sentenced for a restricted license in order to drive to-and-from work, school, or medically necessary appointments. Those with restricted licenses are also usually allowed to take children to and from school/day care, church, and other essential trips. See V.C.C. § 18.2-271.1.
If you already have demerit points assessed against your driving record, the six you get for being convicted of reckless driving might endanger your driver’s license. Since the reckless driving points last for over a decade, if you get any more tickets, those will likely draw the wrath of the DMV and endanger your license long after this conviction. We all need to keep our DMV point accumulation as low as possible. That is why it is generally advised that you should contest moving violations and other such matters.
No. You must appear – or have a lawyer appear for you – to answer the charges and defend yourself, even if you think you’re guilty. If you don’t show up on your court date, an arrest warrant will be filed and the next time you’re stopped, or if the police find you, you face immediate arrest and additional jail time and fines. See V.C.C. § 19.2-128.
Please visit our Arlington Criminal Lawyer page here.
Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law