Prince William County DUI Attorney
You can be arrested for drunk driving if your blood alcohol concentration exceeds the legal limit. You can also be charged if you are under the legal limit but a law enforcement officer has reason to believe any combination of drugs or alcohol has made you unfit to drive. Drunk driving charges can result in a license revocation, a criminal record, fines, and possible jail time. A Prince William County DUI lawyer can help you to decide how to respond to your charges, can help you develop a cohesive defense strategy, and can help you mitigate potential punishment in the event that your specific factual scenario requires it.
How Lawyers Handle These Charges
Charges of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs are very serious. You could be charged with a drunk driving-related offense if you drive any motor vehicle or watercraft and any of the below factors apply:
- Your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or above;
- Your level of impairment is apparent to the arresting officer;
- You appear “under the influence” of any drug or have controlled substances in your blood that exceed legal limits; or
- You are “under the influence” of a combination of alcohol and drugs.
Penalties in Prince William County
Driving under the influence of alcohol comes with severe penalties if you are convicted including:
- A driver’s license suspension. For a first offense, your license will be suspension for a year. For a second offense, your license will be suspension for three years. For a third or subsequent offense, your license will be revoked indefinitely.
- Monetary fines. You will be fined a minimum of $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and $1,000 for a third offense.
- Jail time. For a first offense with a blood alcohol concentration between .15 and .20 percent, the mandatory minimum jail time is five days. For a first offense with a BAC above .20, the mandatory minimum jail term is 10 days. For a second offense within 10 years of a first conviction, the mandatory minimum jail term is 10 days. If the second offense occurs within five years of the first conviction, the mandatory minimum jail term is 20 days. The mandatory minimum jail term for a third offense within five years of a previous conviction is six months, and the mandatory minimum term for a fourth conviction is one year. Notwithstanding these mandatory minimums, all first and second offenses carry the potential for up to twelve months in jail and a third or subsequent offense carries a potential one to five years in prison, or in the court’s discretion up to twelve months in jail.
An alcohol counseling or treatment program could also be court-ordered after you are released from jail or as a condition of probation. You will have to complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) if you are convicted, and you may also have substantial fines and court costs to pay. Additionally, law enforcement and motor vehicle departments in all states regularly communicate with each other and driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is frowned upon everywhere. Depending on where you were stopped can have a significant impact on how your case is handled. Communities within Prince William County include Dumfries, Occoquan, Haymarket, Woodbridge, and Quantico.
If you have previously been convicted of a DUI, even in another state, you can be charged with a second or subsequent DUI offense. A third offense would be considered a felony and penalties become much more serious than a misdemeanor charge. Possible punishments even include mandatory minimum jail sentences. If you are under age 21 and have a BAC of at least 0.02 percent, but less than 0.08 percent, you can be fined up to $500 and your driver’s license could be suspended for six months. If your BAC is over 0.08 percent, the penalties are the same as a driver over 21.
If convicted, you face additional penalties from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, aside from the sentence you receive in the courtroom. Your insurance rates are bound to rise sharply and your insurance company could even cancel your policy. In addition, in Virginia, anyone convicted of DUI, even for a first offense, must have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle for at least six months at their expense if they request a restricted license, which most Virginia drivers do as a necessity to travel to work or school. The costs of maintaining an ignition interlock device can quickly add up, as they include a monthly lease fee and any maintenance or re-calibration costs. DUI convictions stay on your criminal record, which can negatively impact your credit status, current and future employment opportunities, and even where you are able to live for years to come.
Defenses Against DUI Charges
In spite of what your BAC or drug test might reveal, there are a multitude of defenses to the charges that an experienced Prince William County DUI defense lawyer could employ. Some of these defenses might be:
- Challenging the officer’s probable cause to stop you;
- Challenging the results of the field sobriety tests, if you took them;
- Challenging the calibration of the machines that tested your BAC;
- Investigating whether the chain of evidence for your test results was broken; and
- Investigating whether you were arrested within the required three-hour window after you were driving.
You have the right to refuse the field sobriety tests and the preliminary breath test that the police will try to administer at the scene of the stop. It is your best interests to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible after you have been stopped on suspicion of DUI.
Why You Need a Seasoned Prince William County DUI Lawyer
A Prince William County DUI attorney can provide you with assistance in deciding how to plead to your charges. After you are arrested, you will be arraigned and you will be given a trial date. You may have additional court dates between the date of your arraignment and trial, depending on the specific circumstances of your case. Prior to trial, you and your Prince William County DUI lawyer will discuss your plea options and any potential negotiations that may happen with the prosecutor. If you plead not guilty, your attorney may be able to help you negotiate reduced penalties or sometimes arrange with the prosecutor for you to be charged with a lesser offense.
If you decide to plead not guilty, your attorney will help you to introduce defenses or raise doubts. The Commonwealth must present evidence of your guilty and you are not required to testify or present evidence. This is because the prosecutor has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you violated Virginia’s drunk driving laws.
Options include raising questions about whether the evidence was correctly collected and handled, or trying to keep evidence from being used against you if it was obtained in violation of your Fourth Amendment (search and seizure) constitutional rights. Contact a Prince William County DUI lawyer for help understanding available defenses and responding to drunk driving charges.