Driving under the influence is treated as a significant public safety concern by every jurisdiction in Virginia. Lately, few prosecutors or judges are willing to reduce DUI charges, even when the person charged with DUI has a clean criminal record and has spent years as a contributing member of society.
It's important to hire an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to defend your DUI charge. I have experience and training in handling DUI cases and the many issues that can arise in any DUI case.
DUI stands for driving under the influence. Sometimes it is also called DWI--Driving while intoxicated. If you are found to be driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence, you can be charged and convicted of DUI. The elements of the offense are
Driving or operating
a motor vehicle
while under the influence
of alcohol or drugs
Each of those elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for you to be convicted.
Driving is self-explanatory, but operating is defined more broadly than many people realize. For DUI purposes, operating a motor vehicle means having the keys in the ignition of the vehicle. For example, if you are simply sitting in your driveway with the keys in the ignition, that would count as operation and you could be charged with DUI.
The most common way police and prosecutors prove that someone is under the influence is by breath or blood tests. In Virginia, if a breath or blood test shows that your blood alcohol level is 0.08 or above, you are presumed to be under the influence.
But there are many other ways to prove that someone is impaired. For example, police use field sobriety tests to determine whether someone is under the influence.
Field sobriety tests are a series of balancing and speaking exercises. Police also use your own statements against you. If you admit to consuming alcohol or drugs, your statements will be used against you. Police also use observations about your demeanor. For example, if your eyes are bloodshot or if you have the odor of alcohol about your person, those factors will be used by the police to convict you of DUI.
Basically, any narcotic or prescription medication can result in a DUI, as long as you are impaired after taking the drug. For example, if you take sleeping pills--Ambien---before driving, you can be charged with DUI, even if you have a prescription.
Of course you can also be charged with DUI if you take narcotics like cocaine, heroin, or marijuana before driving.
The consequences of a DUI conviction are far-reaching. If convicted, you will have a permanent criminal record. Your license will be suspended. You will have to attend substance abuse counseling. You will pay significant court costs and fines. You also face jail time.
But DUI is also an area where having a trained attorney can make the difference between guilt and innocence. DUI cases almost always involve scientific evidence. Scientific evidence is complicated and an area that opens the door for mistakes on the part of the police and prosecutors.
It's also important to know that even if you're convicted of DUI, you may be eligible to get a restricted license so that you can drive to school or work. If you're sentenced to jail time, you may also be able to serve the sentence on weekends so that you can still work.
Whether you've been charged with your first DUI or your third, you need an attorney who is trained in DUI defense. Such an attorney can make sure you get the best outcome in your case.
Please click the link below for answers to frequently asked questions related to DUI in Virginia.