DUI arrests are relatively common in many jurisdictions throughout Virginia, including Warrenton. Part of this is due to the relative ease with which an officer can claim to have probable cause to stop a driver. Commonwealth law requires a Warrenton Police officer to establish that they had reason to believe, or probable cause, that a crime or traffic infraction was being committed before he or she can pull a car over. Reasons frequently cited as probable cause include: failure to obey traffic signs, speeding or driving too slow, swerving or weaving into other lanes, taking turns too widely or narrowly, or stopping for no apparent reason. There are a number of issues that might cause a driver to do any of these things. If the driver is suspected of DUI, however, it’s clear the officer doesn’t need much to establish cause for a DUI investigation in Warrenton or anywhere else in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is why you will want to consult with a dedicated Warrenton DUI Lawyer if you are facing such charges.
Facing DUI charges in Fauquier County can be stressful, but with the help of our experience DUI attorneys, you can make moves to mitigate the damages associated with the charge.
Once a driver is stopped, the officer will then observe the driver for a number of signs that may indicate intoxication. These include bloodshot eyes, incoherent or slurred speech, flushed cheeks, and an inability to follow simple directions. If such clues are visible, the driver will likely be asked to perform a variety of Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). The tests are voluntary and a driver may refuse to perform them, thought that should be done respectfully. Failure to perform the tests to the officer’s satisfaction can be used as probable cause to ask the driver to take a Breathalyzer test and/or arrest the driver on suspicion of DUI. Refusal of the test will also result in an arrest. This means you must weigh the choice of whether or not your potential blood alcohol content or concentration (BAC) is high enough that you do not want a Breathalyzer reading that can be used as evidence against you later on, or if you’re confident that your BAC will be relatively low or nonexistent.
SFSTs are based on research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); which also has specific guidelines on how officers must be trained in their use and how the tests are administered in order for results to be admissible in court. These tests include:
Much like the driving behaviors that can serve as red flags, many people may not be able to perform these physical tests for reasons other than being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. This includes weight problems, age, physical impairment, balance issues, the type of shoes the driver is wearing, and much more.
If the field tests provide the officer with probable cause the suspect may be asked to submit to a mobile Breathalyzer test at the scene or they may be arrested and subjected to a breath or blood test at the police station. Those who have not yet been arrested may refuse the Breathalyzer test, but as we previously notes this will virtually guarantee an arrest. It does, however, mean that more time will pass before the driver is tested at the police station.
Breathalyzers are by far the most common chemical test performed by police. It is technically called a gas chromatography test and often referred to as a “GC test”. In this test, a driver is required to blow into a tube. The device measures the amount of alcohol in the breath sample and then calculates the person’s estimated blood alcohol content (BAC). If it comes back 0.08 or higher for alcohol, a charge of DWI or DUI follows. It must be noted that DWI and DUI are essentially the same charge in Virginia.
There are a number of vigorous and potentially successful defenses that can be put forth if your BAC registers 0.08 percent or more. The device must be regularly maintained and correctly calibrated. Additionally, certain medical or physical conditions can interfere with the accuracy of the device. A dedicated Warrenton DUI lawyer will understand how all of these tests work and will have the experience and training in determining whether or not you were the victim of a faulty test.
Punishment for DUI convictions in Virginia can be severe if you do not retain sound legal counsel to provide a compelling and vigorous defense. The maximum for a first time conviction can be up to 12 months in jail, loss of your driver’s license for 12 months, and a fine of $250 to $2,500. You might also be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your car if your BAC registered above 0.15 percent.
Other mitigating factors that can influence the penalties you face include, but are not limited to:
If you are convicted of a second DUI/DWI within five years of your first conviction, you face one month to one full year in jail and a fine of $500 to $2,500. A third offense in as many years a minimum of six months in jail and a fine of at least $1,000, though the term can range up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. If you are under the age of 21, and your BAC registers at least 0.02 percent, you face a Class 1 misdemeanor offense and up to one year in jail and a fine of $500 to $2,500. The underage driver will also have his or her license suspended for at least one year and may be ordered to complete 50 hours of community service in lieu of the mandatory minimum fine. See Virginia Code Section. 18.2-266.1. A Warrenton DUI lawyer can answer the questions you may have about the penalties and offenses of DUI in or around Warrenton, Virginia.
Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law