Consequences of DUI Charges in Virginia
The following is excerpted from an interview with Virginia DUI lawyer Thomas Soldan.
What Are Enhanced Penalties for DUI Based on BAC?
Thomas Soldan : In Virginia, a first or second DUI offense is a class one misdemeanor. Class one misdemeanors in Virginia all have the same maximum punishment, which is up to a year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. For DUIs, there is also a 12-month loss of license. However, in certain aggravated or heightened DUI circumstances, the mandatory minimum for jail time can go from zero on a first offense DUI with no blood test, no breath test, or a low BAC based on the breath test, to certain mandatory minimums. The mandatory minimum for having a blood alcohol level from .15 up to .2 percent is five days. If you’re convicted of an offense and your blood or breath results are entered into evidence and that number is between .15 and .2, then you shall be punished with the minimum of five days in jail. If it’s above .2 percent, the minimum is ten days. For those heightened or aggravated DUIs, there is potential for mandatory jail time. Depending on the circumstances of the case, those mandatory sentences may be avoided through negotiation, but if the case went to trial and someone had above .15 percent it is five days and above .2 it is ten days, and that’s in addition to any other discretionary punishment.
What Does Mandatory Minimum Jail Time Mean for Va DUI Offenses?
Thomas Soldan: The jail sentence in DUI cases is based upon jurisdiction and the individual facts that are submitted for each case. Every DUI is certainly different because all the factors are different in terms of the person’s background and what they bring into the case. Depending on the facts, it may be possible to discuss non-consecutive jail time options, such as delayed report or weekend service. There are many things to consider as far as how the time must be served. For a first offense, if someone has a blood alcohol level over .15 they must serve five days in jail and if their level is over .2 they must serve ten days. For second offenses, depending on the time period between their offenses, those penalties increase significantly.
What is the Impact of a DUI on Driving Privileges in Virginia?
Thomas Soldan: If you’re charged with a DUI, you have a Virginia driver’s license, and your BAC is .08 percent, or you refuse the breath/blood test, you will have a seven-day administrative license suspension. That is before you’re convicted of the offense and before you even go to court, so that is just based upon being charged. That means you will have a week of no driving. It’s very important to talk to an attorney during that period. They can tell you what will happen next as far as your license being returned, when it will be returned, how it will be returned, and how to potentially get it back fast, depending on the circumstances of your case. If you’re convicted of a DUI in Virginia, you will lose your license for 12 months. If you have a Virginia license, that means you lose your Virginia license. If you have an out-of-state license, that means you lose your privilege to operate a motor vehicle in Virginia. Your home state may reciprocate to a certain degree, but Virginia can only suspend your privilege to operate in Virginia. From there we would start exploring the options for a restricted license.
What Are the Benefits of a DUI Lawyer?
Thomas Soldan: From the restricted license aspect, an attorney that practices DUI law knows the ins and outs of getting a restricted license approved as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Depending on the jurisdiction, there are a lot of specific things that need to be given to the court, procedures that need to be followed, and specific statutory guidelines on how restricted licenses are supposed to operate. An attorney could help with that. They can help in determining what, if any, pleas are right for you, whether there’s a new negotiation to be made, whether there’s any potential reduction in the type of charge, any mandatory punishment, or if there are other punishments that are available. For a DUI first offense, for example, the punishment can range from a mandatory minimum fine of $250 all the way up to $2,500. That is a huge range. There could be anywhere from zero jail time for somebody who has a first offense all the way up to a year in jail. There is a wide range of punishments, none of which a person would want to risk happening to them. There are a lot of factors to be considered in addition to all the nuances of how the system works, including defenses and post-conviction relief such as working out how to serve jail time, how to pay fines, and how to pay for classes. All those things can be simplified with the help of an experienced DUI attorney.