Spotsylvania DUI Lawyer
Residents of Spotsylvania County, drivers throughout the Commonwealth, and visitors to our state readily agree that the Commonwealth has some of the strictest laws in the country. Depending on your blood alcohol content (BAC) and your history of traffic violations, a DUI conviction draws a mandatory license suspension, mandatory minimum fine and possibly a jail sentence. And if you’re convicted of DUI three times over a 10-year period, it is a class 6 felony that can result in up to five years in prison. Is it any wonder that you need an experienced lawyer to defend you aggressively against DUI charges? It can also help to seek a Spotsylvania DUI lawyer who has experience handling cases in that jurisdiction.
In Virginia, a first offense for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Virginia Code Section 18.2-266 includes DWI and DUI) is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by:
- Up to 12 months in jail
- As much as a $2,500 fine
- A one-year license suspension
- An ignition interlock device being placed on your vehicle for a minimum of six months
- Required participation in Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) classes
The Virginia Code creates a permissive inference of intoxication if the BAC is 0.08 or higher. If it is “elevated” (0.15 or higher), there is a mandatory period of incarceration, even for first offenders. If the BAC is above 0.20, that mandatory incarceration period doubles. If you refuse to take a breath or blood test after being arrested for suspicion of DUI and being informed of Virginia’s strict implied consent law, you may face an additional charge. Note, however, that you are permitted to refuse the portable breath test (PBT) or field sobriety tests prior to your arrest.
Proving DUI Guilt
A DUI/DWI case is based on three elements: pre-stop driving behavior (commonly referred to as the “reasonable, articulable suspicion” phase), physical observations and field sobriety tests (also known as the “probable case” phase), and laboratory tests (EC/IR2 tests at the police station or blood tests at the station). All of this evidence must line up properly in order for the Commonwealth to secure a conviction. An experienced, well-trained Spotsylvania DUI lawyer can successfully mount a number of defenses to chip away at these elements to raise reasonable doubt about this evidence and negotiate for the best possible outcome given your unique facts and circumstances.
The police officer must have reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop your car and investigate you for a potential DUI. , Common examples of reasonable, articulable suspicion include speeding or some other traffic violation on your part. Other common examples are equipment violations such as a broken taillight, illegal window tint, or expired tags. Reasonable, articulable suspicion requires a thoughtful analysis when it pertains to potentially subjective behaviors such as “erratic” driving, failing to maintain lane control driving too slowly, or drifting within your lane. Though these behaviors may meet the reasonable, articulable suspicion hurdle, such issues are ripe for a strong defense.
A skilled DUI defense attorney can parse the police reports and interview witnesses to determine whether the officer had true legal justification to stop you. Sometimes, officers make mistakes in interpreting reasonable, articulable suspicion . An improper stop can lead to your case being dismissed.
Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)
Once stopped, you may be ordered out of the car and asked to complete a series of field sobriety tests (FSTs) to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that you were driving while intoxicated. None of these tests alone will support probable cause to arrest you, but prosecutors can claim that together, they offer enough probable cause to support an arrest.
There are three common tests used by Virginia officers in a DUI or DWI traffic stop: the nine step walk and turn, the one-legged stand, and horizontal-gaze nystagmus (HGH) test. Depending on the jurisdiction other tests may be offered. They must be conducted according to specifically stated procedures, and you may refuse to take these tests. Many times, an experienced Spotsylvania DUI lawyer can argue – often with merit if the suspect has some sort of physical condition that guarantees failure of one or all of the tests – that FSTs are inaccurate and unreliable and do not provide adequate probable cause in many circumstances. At this stage, the officer will often offer a portable breath test (PBT) as well. There is no legal obligation to take a PBT in Virginia. Even though PBT results cannot be used against you to determine guilt or innocence, they can be used against you to determine probable cause for the arrest.
When you are arrested and arrive at the police station, they can draw blood – if a qualified medical professional is there to perform the procedure (though this typically occurs at the hospital) – or, more commonly, administer a breath test to determine whether you were driving above the legal limit of 0.08. These tests are not infallible, and there could be several ways to assail the results and cast doubt on their evidentiary value:
The Testing Process –There are very stringent guidelines for the operating of all testing equipment. If these procedures are not followed, then the test results may be thrown out, and a major portion of the evidence against you goes away.
Certification Errors – Whoever administers a breath test must be properly – and currently – certified. The machine itself must be properly calibrated. The certificate that contains the test results must be filed according to Virginia law. If any of these steps is improperly followed, then the chances that a blood or breath test will be excluded as evidence become quite high.
Your DUI charge may seem hopeless at first, but an experienced Spotsylvania DUI attorney can help you understand the process and dig further into the facts of your case to find useful defense information. But make no mistake: DUIs are serious if not defended properly and aggressively. Don’t put your liberty, your driving privileges, and your future at risk. Contact our office today for a free consultation if you have been charged with DUI in the City of Fredericksburg or Spotsylvania County and let us work for you to protect your Constitutional rights and your freedom.