Alexandria DUI Lawyer
An Alexandria DUI lawyer can represent you if you have been accused of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Your attorney can help you fight the administrative suspension of your driver’s license that occurs automatically in Virginia if you refuse a BAC test or if you are arrested for DUI and deliver a breath sample of 0.08 or higher. He or she can also represent you in court and when dealing with prosecutors after a receiving a criminal charge. Call today to contact a criminal defense attorney in Alexandria with experience dealing with DUIs.
A basic DUI usually involves a blood or breath test. There are some cases where neither of those exist, at which point a prosecutor must rely solely on a police officer’s observations at a stop. While a first offense with a blood alcohol content (BAC) under .15 percent is unlikely to result in a jail sentence, DUI charges are still serious matters that will remain on a person’s criminal record. Various aggravating factors may also apply that can lead to felony charges and a mandatory minimum jail term. In some situations, police officers may also add other charges to a DUI arrest, such as endangering a child or vehicular assault.
Anyone accused of driving impaired must be treated as innocent until proven guilty of DUI, even if blood alcohol concentration is at or above the legal limit of .08 percent. A DUI lawyer in Alexandria can help ensure that no evidence obtained in violation of your rights is used to convict you. Your lawyer can also help identify defenses, petition to get charges dropped if there is not enough evidence, and present a compelling case to a jury to fight for a not guilty verdict.
DUI Laws in Alexandria
All drivers operating a motor vehicle on a public road are required by implied consent laws to undergo a chemical test in Virginia. However, police can test a driver only if they have reasonable articulable suspicion for the initial traffic stop and probable cause to arrest the driver. Drivers are permitted to refuse a field sobriety test and a handheld breath test, although refusal of field sobriety tests can be used against you depending on the reasons for the refusal.
When a post-arrest chemical test shows a BAC above the limit or a driver refuses to take a test, this leads to an automatic administrative suspension of a driver’s license, even before a court finds the driver guilty of drunk driving. An Alexandria DUI attorney can help fight against this automatic suspension of the right to drive.
A defendant also must go to court to respond to charges of impaired driving. Criminal charges can be pursued even if a motorist was not over the BAC limit, if the prosecutor believes there is credible evidence the motorist was too impaired to drive. An Alexandria DUI lawyer can help present a defense in trial to avoid conviction or can talk to a prosecutor assigned to a DUI case to try to negotiate a plea agreement that results in minimal penalties or reduced charges.
How Does State Law Define Driving for the Purpose of DUI Cases?
Virginia Code §18.2-266 prohibits driving or operating any motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This means that a person does not need to be physically driving a car to be arrested for DUI.
Specifically, even sitting in a running car can be considered “operating” while inebriated. Local criminal courts also define sitting in a car with keys in the ignition while under the influence of drugs or alcohol as “operating”.
DUI laws also cover all motor vehicles. As a result, scooters, bicycles with certain motors, and mopeds all fall under this definition. Additionally, VA Code §46.2-100 defines a highway as any roadway held open to the public. This can include interstates, local roads, state highways, and alleys. Therefore, a person accused of DUI on private property may dispute whether the implied consent statute applies to their behavior. But keep in mind, you can be charged and convicted of a DUI even if you were on private property.
One of our DUI attorneys could argue that a person was not operating their vehicle while inebriated. An Alexandria lawyer could conduct in-depth research into the facts of a person’s case to determine if state and local DUI laws apply.
Possible Penalties for a First Offense DUI
Penalties for a DUI offense are established in VA Code §18.2-270. A defendant who is convicted of drunk driving could face a $250 fine and one-year license suspension for a first offense with a BAC of .08 to less than .15. Of course, most people’s primary concern is whether they face potential jail time after a conviction. The statute says that a conviction can result in a jail sentence of up to 12 months. However, this outcome is unlikely for people with no prior history of DUI and a BAC of less than .15.
Courts in Alexandria have no alternative sentencing option for first-time offenders. While other jurisdictions may allow a person to spend time on probation as long as they attend alcohol education courses, the Commonwealth does not. As a result, any person arrested for DUI for the first time is subject to criminal penalties upon conviction. A lawyer in Alexandria could help to explain the potential consequences that a DUI conviction can have on a person’s life.
Aggravating Factors in a DUI Case
A person can be charged with DUI when a blood/alcohol test reveals a BAC level of .08 or higher. However, a BAC of .15 or higher, or a history of repeat offenses can result in aggravated penalties like a mandatory minimum jail sentence and the indefinite revocation of a license.
A second offense within five years of the first could result in a mandatory minimum jail sentence of twenty days and a three-year license suspension. If it is charged as a second offense within ten years, the mandatory jail time is ten days. If the allegations involve a third offense within five years, the mandatory jail sentence increases to six months, and the maximum fine increases to at least $1,000. A third offense within ten years requires a mandatory 90-day jail sentence. This would also result in an indefinite loss of a driver’s license.
Similar aggravated penalties also apply to cases involving extreme intoxication. If a defendant’s blood alcohol level is between .15 and .20, a minimum jail sentence of five days applies. A BAC above .20 is a mandatory minimum of ten days.
For this reason, it is especially essential to promote a powerful defense when a prosecutor alleges extreme intoxication or for a subsequent DUI offense. These penalties can be avoided if you can secure a favorable verdict by introducing compelling evidence with the help of a lawyer.
Defending Drivers Under the Age of 21
A person’s age is irrelevant in a DUI investigation if a police officer finds that their blood/alcohol level is at .08 or more. However, the acceptable BAC level drops for a person under the age of 21.
According to VA Code §18.2-266.1, the maximum BAC for drivers under 21 years of age is .02. In other words, just about any level of alcohol in their bloodstream can constitute DUI charges. The same is true for driving under the influence of drugs.
A person under the age of 21 who is convicted of driving under the influence will therefore face enhanced penalties. The offense is still a Class 1 misdemeanor and could carry up to a 12-month jail sentence. However, the minimum fine rises to $500, or at least 50 hours of community service.
Additionally, there is a one-year mandatory loss of license in addition to the seven-day jail sentence for failing a breath test. The same general concepts of proof apply in underage drinking DUI cases. An Alexandria DUI attorney could help defend young drivers facing accusations of operating a motor vehicle while inebriated.
When Can Police Officers Stop a Driver?
Almost every DUI investigation begins with a police officer performing a traffic stop. To justify these stops, an officer must be able to articulate a reasonable suspicion for pulling a driver over. Usually, this suspicion includes witnessing a driver making an illegal lane change, passing over the double yellow lines, or driving too fast or too slowly. However, it is also possible for an officer to witness an intoxicated driver leave a bar or restaurant.
Whether or not an officer had just cause to make a stop is key to defending against DUI charges. Every person is legally protected from unreasonable stops and searches, and a DUI stop is no exception. It follows that an Alexandria lawyer could argue that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to lawfully pull someone over for DUI. If successful, this argument could lead to the exclusion of all the officer’s evidence concerning a defendant’s intoxication.
Protecting a Defendant’s Rights Before Trial
Law enforcement is required to read a suspect their Miranda rights upon arrest, which include the right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present during questioning. In fact, there is also no obligation to talk to police officers during a traffic stop or to submit to field sobriety tests.
Working with an Alexandria DUI attorney could help protect the rights of a suspect after an arrest. A lawyer from our firm could reinforce a person’s refusal to submit to questioning and ensure that police officers follow proper procedure.
A lawyer can also be of great value during an arraignment. An arraignment is an initial appearance in court that determines a defendant’s quality of life while waiting for their case to reach a resolution. Most relevant are arguments concerning bail.
In many misdemeanor cases, including first-offense DUIs, the most common position is that a defendant is released on their own recognizance. This means that they are free to return home with the promise that they will reappear in the future.
However, more serious allegations, such as those that carry a mandatory minimum jail sentence, may lead a prosecutor to request bail. In these situations, an Alexandria DUI defense attorney could help argue against the need for bail.
Presenting Persuasive Defenses Before a Jury
No matter the exact nature of a DUI charge and any accompanying accusations, every person has the right to have a jury decide their case. As in any criminal case, a prosecutor bears the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It follows that the objective of a defense attorney is to create reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors.
In almost every Alexandria DUI case, the observations and opinions of the arresting officer will be central to the prosecution’s case. An attorney from our firm could offer thorough cross-examination of the police officer who made the arrest by questioning their observations and the decisions.
An attorney could also question the validity of any scientific evidence of the defendant’s intoxication. Breath tests can be unreliable in even the best of circumstances. In addition, any blood that is tested must remain under the proper custody to be admissible in court.
While a defendant is never required to provide testimony in court, they may wish to take the stand to offer an alternative version of events. Especially in cases where apparent intoxication may have been the result of drowsiness or another medical condition that left them impaired, a defendant’s testimony may help bolster their defense.
Learn How an Alexandria DUI Attorney Can Help
Facing an arrest for DUI can turn your life upside. Immediately after an arrest, you will lose your license for a predetermined length of time, which can be extended in the case of conviction. A conviction can also result in a jail sentence and fines. It is critical that you understand your rights and what the prosecutor needs to prove in order to secure a conviction.
An Alexandria DUI lawyer can review the circumstances of your arrest to help determine if law enforcement acted improperly. Illegally obtained evidence may be suppressed and, in some cases, charges will be dropped due to lack of evidence. They can also work to evaluate the strength of the officer’s observational evidence to determine if their decision to make the arrest was sound.
Finally, a lawyer can make arguments in court to provide an alternative theory of why you may have appeared intoxicated, but in fact were not. Talk to an Alexandria DUI lawyer about the options available to you and learn how an experienced attorney can put their legal knowledge to work to help you make strategic choices when dealing with your DUI charges. Call today to learn more.