DUI / DWI Attorney in Virginia
It is very normal for a person charged with DUI or DWI to search the internet or discuss with friends answers to some of the following questions:
• How much time will I really be spending in jail?
• Can they really find me guilty if I was just sitting in a car with it running?
• Do I need a lawyer; it’s only my first offense?
• What defenses could I possible have when I was driving after drinking?
• Can I drive for any reason if I’m convicted?
The best answer I can give you is to call and set up a consultation. A first time offense is very different from a third and the result or lack of result from a breath or blood test will change the possible outcomes. You need to have a specialized consultation that is specific to you and the best information will be obtained from an attorney who practices regularly in DUI / DWI law in Virginia.
Driving under the influence (DUI) in Virginia, can be charged against suspects for either alcohol or drugs [Virginia Criminal Code § 18.2-266].
Suspects can also be charged for this offense if they are intoxicated while operating a watercraft [V.C.C. § 29.1-738]. If any of the following applies, a person may be arrested.
• Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.08 or above (DWI).
• A person is “under the influence of alcohol” to the point of impairment in the opinion of the arresting officer, even if their BAC turns out to be under 0.08 (DUI).
• The suspect is under the influence of any drug, also in the opinion of the arresting officer. (They don’t need to have a BAC of 0.08.)
• The driver/boater is under the influence of both drugs and alcohol.
Minors can be also be arrested for either offense if they have a BAC as low as 0.02 [V.C.C. § 18.2-266.1].
Upon arrest, a suspect’s driver’s license may be immediately administratively suspended for a duration that depends on whether this is a first, second or subsequent DUI / DWI offense. If they wish to request an interim restricted license, accused must appear and petition the court.
Once convicted, a DUI / DWI may cause insurance rates to rise sharply. If this is a second (or subsequent) offense, the carrier could cancel an auto insurance policy. Those convicted of a DUI / DWI are frequently ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle, even if this is a first offense. The minimum amount of time that this device must remain on their vehicle is six months.
From the Traffic Stop to Being Charged with DUI / DWI
Police officers must have reasonable articulable suspicion to stop the vehicle of the accused. Officers may not pull over a vehicle on a mere hunch, there must be some driving behavior or circumstances that give the officer reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred or is afoot.
After observing the driving behavior and the answers to an initial interview, the officer may request that the driver take a series of roadside Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs). They are based on the suspect’s ability to demonstrate physical coordination and mental acuity (or lack of it due to their condition). Suspects may decline to take these tests without legal punishment, but if a driver shows impairment during any or all of these tests, the officer may arrest him or her on suspicion of DUI / DWI.
Once the suspect arrives at the police station, a test is administered to determine the blood alcohol content of the accused, usually with a Breathalyzer. Suspects may decline to submit to this test as well, but the punishment, if found guilty of Unreasonable Refusal is loss of their driver’s license for a year [V.C.C. § 18.2-268.3]. This statutory suspension prohibits the suspect from requesting a restricted license for their suspension period.
And though BAC tests are strong evidence against suspects, they are not bulletproof. A seasoned Virginia DUI / DWI lawyer can often contest this evidence if any of the following can be proved:
• The test was improperly administered.
• The device was not properly calibrated.
• If the suspect was administered a blood test, which is preferred if he or she is being treated for injuries from an accident, the blood was mishandled (and possibly contaminated), which makes it inadmissible.
• The officer did not actually have reasonable articulable suspicion to pull over the vehicle or lacked probable cause to arrest the accused.
DUI / DWI cases may involve numerous constitutional issues and challenges that could include your 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination, and 6th Amendment right to confront your accuser. There is much case law devoted solely to the practice of DUI / DWI in Virginia and having an attorney who regularly practices in this area could be vital to the success of achieving the best possible outcome for your case. Not all defenses are available for all cases because each case is unique.
Penalties Depend on the Number of DUI Convictions
The following are some factors that determine the degree of the penalty. They include:
• The suspect’s BAC level (even if it is below 0.08).
• The number of previous convictions and the timing of those prior convictions.
• Whether there were any minors in the vehicle when the suspect was arrested.
The penalty for first-time DUI / DWI conviction can be up to 12 months in jail, but it is rare that the maximum punishment be imposed for a first offense. A fine as high as $2,500 could also be levied, but seldom is it that much for a first offense. However by statute, the driver’s license is suspended for a year for a first offense and this is not negotiable. A second conviction also has a maximum fine of $2,500, a mandatory minimum period of jail time (with a one-year maximum), and a three-year license suspension. A third conviction is a felony with even more serious jail sentences and consequences and indefinite driver’s license suspension [V.C.C. § 18.2-270].
The penalties for driving under the influence (DUI/DWI) can be very severe in Virginia. However, a serious misconception amongst both the public and attorneys are that all DUIs are the same. This is not true. Each person charged with a DUI / DWI will a different set of facts and circumstances unique only to them. By mounting a compelling defense, your attorney can negotiate with the prosecution to drop, reduce or change the charge, or present your case to a judge at a trial.
It is important to tell your attorney everything that you remember. If you have been arrested for DUI / DWI, it is important to write down and record everything you remember hearing, saying and doing before, during and after the arrest as quickly as possible. Accurate information is important for your lawyer to have so that a defense can begin to be built immediately and you can be protected from any damaging information that may be claimed.
Equipped with all the information you have pertaining to your case, an attorney can sit down with you and evaluate the possible defenses and obstacles your case presents. A preliminary evaluation can provide you with invaluable information. However, it is important to understand that new information or facts may be presented by the prosecution during the litigation of the case that could change the initial assessment.
Whether you’re facing a DUI / DWI charge for the first time or a repeat offender, Naum Estevez, PLLC in Manassas, VA, can provide you with a DUI / DWI attorney who will work hard to help. Our clients receive local representation, and every case we handle gets personal attention us.
Our firm is fully licensed and insured to practice throughout the State of Virginia. We offer reasonable rates and fees, convenient office hours, and flexible appointment scheduling. We understand the great importance of excellence in client service, and if you’ve been charged with a DUI/ DWI, our lawyer can work to represent you by:
• Explaining the charges, the potential ramifications, and your options
• Helping you choose the ideal defense strategy for your circumstances
• Negotiating with prosecutors and representing you before a judge if necessary
The Naum Estevez, PLLC understands good people sometimes make mistakes, and we want to provide the DUI / DWI attorney to help you overcome yours. If you have any questions or want to schedule a consultation with us, don’t hesitate to call. We represent clients throughout Northern and Central Virginia and the surrounding region, and we’d welcome the opportunity to represent you.
Please call Naum Estevez, PLLC for a consultation today. Please be sure to bring all paperwork given you by the police that is in your possession, a detailed account of what occurred to the best of your memory, your driving record, and any other information that you think might be helpful to your case. We look forward to helping you through this difficult but manageable time in your life.