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Stopped for DUI in Virginia- 6 Things to Know

Stopped for DUI in Virginia: 6 Things to Know

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There’s a great deal of focus on the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits set by states in DWI laws. The best known limit is .08 BAC, which is the point at which drivers are presumed to be impaired in Virginia and many other states. However, it’s not as well known that a driver in Virginia can be convicted of DUI with a BAC level below .08. According to the state law, a driver with a reading of between .05 and .07 BAC can be convicted if the state also has evidence of impairment – anything from reckless driving, slurred speech and an unsteady gait to an accident. Combining the evidence of impairment with a BAC near the legal limit can result in a DWI conviction in Virginia.

If you are stopped for DWI in Virginia, here are six things you must know.

1.     Implied consent and sobriety testing

Criminal defense attorneys say all drivers in Virginia should understand this distinction: A chemical test and a field sobriety test are two different things and only the chemical test falls under the Implied Consent Law in Virginia. That means all drivers in the state have consented in advance to submit to a test of their blood, urine or breath in order to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The field sobriety test may be requested by a police officer, like the chemical test, but drivers are not required to consent to this test that involves physical activities like walking a straight line and balancing on one leg. In fact, attorneys say the field sobriety test all too often leads to false positive results.

2.     Refusing the chemical test

A driver who refuses the chemical test will have his or her license suspended for a year on a first offense. That increases to three years on a second offense. DWI defense attorneys say refusing the test won’t make it impossible for the state to win a drunk driving case. It is not uncommon for prosecutors to win convictions with the help of testimony from the police officer and by pointing out that the driver refused the chemical test.

3.     You’re likely to be on video

The performance in court during a DUI trial is usually not the most critical performance for an offender. The video of the DUI stop is usually the most critical piece of evidence in any drunk driving case, and criminal defense attorneys say it’s up to drivers to do everything possible to make their performance as boring as possible. That includes saying and doing as little as possible, while still being polite and providing all required documents for the police officer. Drivers can politely decline to engage in a conversation with the officer and do not have to allow an officer to search their vehicle (but they should not refuse to get out of the vehicle, if ordered). That will make for a boring video, but that’s also in the best interest of the driver.   

4.     More than .08 to worry about

Like many states in the country, Virginia lawmakers recognized the importance of stricter limits for different classes of drivers in the state. The toughest limit is .02 BAC for drivers under the age of 21 – or the equivalent of a single drink for many individuals. The limit isn’t much higher for commercial drivers at .04 BAC and the limit for most adult drivers is .08 BAC.

 5.     DUI penalties in Virginia

Virginia has mandatory minimum sentences for judges to consider. For a first DUI conviction with no aggravating circumstances, the minimum jail sentence is five days with a minimum fine of $250, a driver’s license suspension for up to a year and alcohol assessment and education. For a second offense, the minimums increase to 20 days in jail, with a maximum of up to 1 year, a minimum fine of $500 and a driver’s license suspension of up to three years. For a third offense, the minimum jail sentence is six  months, with a minimum fine of $1,000 and an indefinite driver’s license suspension.

6.  Total cost of a DUI in Virginia

A $250 fine is only the beginning of the costs associated with a DUI conviction for a first offender. There’s also about $1,000 to have an ignition interlock device on a vehicle for a year and about $675 in various costs related to the Alcohol Safety Detention Program , including alcohol assessment and drug and alcohol education. Two significant costs are for attorneys fees and car insurance. A criminal defense attorney could cost between $1,500 and $15,000 while insurance will go up after a conviction and perhaps cost an additional $1,000 to $2,000 for at least 3 years.

This article is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney.

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