Manassas First-Time DUI Charges

DUI charges in Manassas, Virginia are serious regardless of whether it is an individuals first, second, or third offense. However, DUI charges can be very complicated. Below, a Manassas DUI lawyer discusses first-time DUI charges and how the charge process for this charge proceeds. Call today to schedule a consultation and discuss your case in more detail.

Where First-Time DUI Charges in Manassas Typically Heard

DUI charges in Manassas are always heard in the Prince William County Courthouse, which is on Lee Avenue in the City of Manassas.

How Prosecutors Handle First-Time DUI Charges

Prosecutors take first-time DUI charges very seriously. They are aggressive in prosecuting these cases. Even if a person has a clean record or a relatively low breath alcohol content or blood alcohol content (BAC), it is of little consequence to the government. It does not matter if you are a good person. The only thing that matters is that you made the decision to get behind the wheel and drive. They will prosecute all first-time offenders vigorously.

Penalties for First-Time DUI

The penalties for a first-time charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are largely statutory in nature, which means that there is no negotiating around some of the penalties if you are convicted. If the person is convicted they will lose their license for a period of 12 months. That cannot be negotiated down to six months or nine months or anything else. In the statute it is 12. They will be eligible to get a restricted license so they can go to and from work or school, or anything else that qualifies for a restricted license under the statute.

They will have suspended jail time, which means a jail sentence will be imposed but will be suspended in its entirety conditional upon 12 months of general good behavior and completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP). To maintain the suspended jail time a person must not violate the terms of their restricted license or commit any further crimes. They will also be subjected to a fine of up to $2500. Typically in Prince William County the fine is somewhere in the $300 to $500 range.

In cases where the BAC is 0.15 or higher, there is mandatory minimum jail time of five days, and if the BAC is 0.21 or higher, then the mandatory minimum jail time is ten days.

Diversion or Probation Programs for First-Time Offenders in Manassas

That is not something that is available under Virginia law. I know that occurs in jurisdictions nearby such as Maryland and D.C., but unfortunately on this side of the river that is never an available option.

How Courts Treat First-Time DUI Charges

If a breath or a blood result is entered as evidence, I would expect any judge here in Manassas to accept the results as a fact, unless the defense is able to present some sort of evidence to the contrary. I would say that they really go by the book out here in Manassas and if you are going to have a successful defense, you must have some defense strategies lined up. Essentially, you are not going to win if you just go in and try to argue that the breath test, if over 0.08, is not enough evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Leniency of Courts v. Juries

The first thing you need to understand is there is no choice at first. When you are charged you will be in General District Court, which does not allow for jury trials. If convicted there, you have the right to appeal to Circuit Court. Once the case is in Circuit Court, you need to decide between a judge or jury trial. I think the decision depends a lot on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case. If a case involves a traffic accident where someone was injured, then your best bet is probably to try it in front of a judge because prosecutors are very good at playing into people’s emotions, including asking “what if that was you?” kinds of questions. Judges have the ability to parse the emotional side and rule simply on the facts presented in the case. Juries are more likely to have some emotional reaction. However, it depends on the kind of case, and I have to really analyze whether or not a client of mine will be better served by having his case heard in front of a judge or a jury.