Virginia DUI Breath & Blood Alcohol Tests
Being convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), or driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) in the Commonwealth of Virginia has varied and serious consequences. It will affect your family, your future, your ability to keep or obtain employment, and your reputation. Being arrested on suspicion of DUI, DWI, or DUID begins the process of possible conviction. It is in your best interest to immediately contact a Virginia DUI lawyer to represent you as soon as the process starts so that they can help to protect your interests, provide you with accurate and current legal information, and advocate for the best possible disposition.
By virtue of the Commonwealth’s implied consent laws, when you get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle in Virginia — whether you have a valid driver’s license of not — you are deemed to have consented to taking a breath or blood test should a police officer stop you on suspicion of drunk driving under most circumstances. The purpose of the chemical breath and blood tests is to determine whether you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) that is above the legal limit and that would impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. The legal BAC limit in Virginia is 0.08 percent for those over the age of 21. Penalties for drunk driving convictions can become more severe as the BAC level increases.
Breath and Blood Test Facts
A chemical breath or blood test must be administered within three hours of the officer stopping you on suspicion of impaired driving. The law enforcement official will most likely offer you the breath test first, but if for some reason you are unable to complete a breath test or one is not available, the officer will offer you a blood test.
It is important to note that the officer may ask you to take a preliminary breath test (“PBT”) at the scene of the stop. This is not an official breath test but the officer may use it to establish “probable cause” that you are driving under the influence. You can refuse to take this preliminary test and your refusal cannot be used in court against you. However, if the officer has any other reason to suspect you are driving under the influence, such as the results of the field sobriety tests, they may arrest you even without a PBT and then you will be required to take a chemical breath or blood test at the police station or hospital, respectively.
Refusing a Breath or Blood Test
Refusing to take a breath or blood test can be used against you in court and you may be charged with “unreasonable refusal” pursuant to Virginia Code Section 18.2-268.3. A conviction for a first offense of unreasonable refusal is only a civil violation, not a criminal offense, however the penalty is a one year suspension of all Virginia driving privileges. This is often referred to as a “hard loss” of license, because if you are convicted of this section you are not eligible to receive a restricted license. A second or subsequent refusal offense will result in a longer period of hard loss, and the offense itself becomes a Class 2 misdemeanor for the second offense and a Class 1 misdemeanor for a third or subsequent offense. In addition to post-conviction penalties, a refusal charge may incur certain penalties at the time of arrest, known as administrative license suspensions. Typically, the administrative suspension of your license begins immediately upon your refusal, and lasts for anywhere from seven to 60 days.
If you refuse to take either chemical test, the state is required to give you a legal form which states that as a driver you consented to these tests, that your refusal to take them will be used against you in court, that your refusal constitutes grounds for license revocation. If the equipment produces a written analysis, you will receive a copy of it.
A DUI Defense Lawyer Can Help
The chemical breath and blood tests are a significant component of DUI, DWI, or DUID charges. Refusal to submit to a test may lead to additional penalties if you are convicted. When you get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle in Virginia, you have given an implied consent for your breath or blood to be tested if arrested for suspicion of a DUI, DWI, or DUID offense. There are certain instances in which refusal may be in your best interests, but in other situations, it may lead to unnecessary additional charges. While it is best to consume alcohol responsibly and never put yourself in this difficult position, a dedicated DUI defense attorney will understand that mistakes happen and that you will need skilled and experienced legal counsel if you are facing the consequences of a difficult choice.
For clarity on the chemical breath and blood tests, call a Virginia criminal defense lawyer. Our team has the education, past caseload experience, and background to not only help you understand the law but also to provide you with sound advice as to how to best handle your DUI, DWI, or DUID arrest. Contact our Virginia law office today for a free consultation and to find out more about your legal options.