What Is a DUI/DWI in Virginia?
The average driver will make many mistakes while behind the wheel in his or her lifetime. No driver is perfect. Recklessly endangering the lives of others through a crime such as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), however, can lead to serious consequences and penalties. It could also cause a catastrophic car accident that injures or kills victims. In a single year, almost 20,000 drivers in Virginia received DUI/DWI convictions. Impaired drivers took 262 lives the same year.
Definition of DUI/DWI in Virginia
The legal definition of driving under the influence in Virginia is operating a motor vehicle or a boat with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Blood alcohol content is a measure of how much alcohol is in your system. You could also receive a DWI charge for a BAC of less than 0.08% if the police officer believes you have imbibed in enough alcohol to impair your driving. Driving under the influence of impairing drugs, including prescription medications, is also against the law in Virginia.
What Does it Take for the Courts to Convict You of DUI?
A police officer must have probable cause to pull you over before charging you with DUI. Believing you are drunk is not enough of a reason to stop you. The officer must have another reason, such as speeding or running a red light. During the traffic stop, the officer will assess you for signs of impairment. These can include bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, alcohol odors and open containers in your car. The officer may then order you to take a Breathalyzer test and/or a field sobriety test.
If the officer arrests you for alleged DUI or DWI, stay calm and do not fight the arrest. Use your right to remain silent. Do not answer any of the officer’s questions, except if asked your name, until you have an attorney present. You could say something that strengthens the case against you. Call a Richmond DUI/DWI lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can represent you during an arraignment, other hearings and your DUI trial. The prosecution will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving while impaired to convict you of this crime.
What Are the Penalties?
A DUI/DWI conviction is a misdemeanor in Virginia, in most cases. With no prior DUI convictions in the past 10 years, the courts will consider you a first-time offender. The typical punishment for a first-time DUI/DWI conviction in Virginia is a fine, one year of driver’s license suspension, a mandatory alcohol treatment program, probation and up to one year in jail.
The criminal penalties for DUI increase if a Breathalyzer test showed a BAC of 0.15% to 0.20%. In this case, you will serve a minimum of five days in jail before being eligible for probation. You must serve at least 10 days with a BAC of 0.20% or higher. If you were driving under the influence with someone under 18 inside your vehicle, you will serve an additional five days on top of your sentence. The penalties for DUI or DWI will increase if you are not a first-time offender. If you caused a car accident while operating a motor vehicle or boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you could also face more severe penalties.
When to Hire a Drunk Driving Defense Attorney
Consult with a drunk driving defense attorney immediately if you are facing this type of criminal charge in Virginia. The penalties for DUI/DWI in Virginia are strict; a conviction could change your life. Severe punishments, especially if you are a repeat offender, could mean jail time and the long-term loss of your driving privileges. If the courts charge your DUI as a felony, you could face up to five years in prison and permanent driver’s license revocation. A DUI/DWI lawyer may be able to minimize the charges and penalties you face as a driver in Virginia.