In Virginia, DUI/DWI charges are very serious crimes. They can have catastrophic effects on your driving record, employment, security clearance, daily obligations, and your freedom. We understand that good people make mistakes. Taking the first steps to hire an experienced and skilled DUI/DWI attorney is one of the best ways to build a sound defense and to protect yourself in court from this serious charge.
The skilled and experienced DUI/DWI attorneys at Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C., are here to help you understand your DUI/DWI charge and know how to effectively defend against it. We believe that being charged with a DUI/DWI should not put a permanent mark on your life. We are dedicated to helping you, will do everything in our power to build a strong case and to obtain a favorable outcome in court so that you may move forward with your life.
What is a DUI/DWI, and What Are the Penalties?
Any individual who drives while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug has committed a DUI/DWI. According to Virginia Code Section 18.2-266, the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent or more by weight by volume or 0.08 grams or more per 210 liters of breath. Any individual with a BAC of 0.08 or higher than this legal limit is driving while intoxicated. It is important to understand, however, that individuals with a BAC under 0.08 percent can still be charged with a DUI/DWI. If an officer believes that alcohol, drugs or any combination of alcohol and drugs has inhibited your ability to operate a motor vehicle, even if your BAC is below a 0.08, they may still charge you with a DUI/DWI. The officer may make this decision based on many factors to include: exhibited erratic driving behavior such as swerving, weaving or driving recklessly, an inability to speak clearly, walk properly, odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, an inability to follow directions or requests of the police officer, your statements about drinking or drug use, the manner of your statements, general disposition, awareness of your surroundings, result on the volunteer field sobriety tests (roadside filed tests), in addition to the results of the preliminary breath tests (PBT).
Virginia considers DUI/DWI as a criminal charge with penalties that may include active jail time, making it crucial that you protect yourself with a strong and effective defense. For first-time offenders, DUI/DWI is a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries a penalty of conferment in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500.00, either or both, with a mandatory minimum fine of $250.00, suspension of your driver's license for 12 months, 1 year probation with the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP), and with court authorization, an ability to request the court to issue you a limited restricted driver's license with the installation of an ignition interlock system installed in your motor vehicle for a minimum of 6 consecutive months during the period of your license suspension and restriction. Moreover, ignition interlock devices are equipped with cameras to allow ASAP probation officers to see and confirm if a driver who was convicted of a DUI/DWI and was granted a restricted operator's license got another person to blow into the ignition interlock device for him or her or otherwise tampered with or manipulated the device. The ignition interlock device requirement is designed and aimed at making sure drivers don't skip BAC testes that they are required to maintain and adhere to while operating a vehicle with a restricted driver's license after there is a conviction for DUI/DWI.
The DUI/DWI penalties increase for elevated BAC and repeat offenders. A first offender where the BAC is at least .15 but not more than .20 shall be confined in jail for an additional mandatory minimum period of 5 days, and where the BAC is more than .20, for an additional mandatory minimum period of 10 days. In addition to the penalties associated with an elevated BAC, where one is convicted of a 2nd offense committed within 5 to 10 years of a prior DUI/DWI, that person will be punished by a mandatory minimum fine of $500 and confinement in jail for not less than 1 month, with 10 days of that jail sentence being a mandatory minimum sentence. Upon a conviction of a 2nd offense within a 10-year period of a prior DUI/DWI, where the BAC is at least .15 but not more than .20, that person will be confined in jail for an additional mandatory minimum period of 10 days or, if the BAC level is more than .20, confinement in jail for an additional mandatory minimum period of 20 days. In addition, the offender will be fined a mandatory minimum fine of $500.
If you are convicted of 3 DUI/DWI's committed within a 10 year period, you will be guilty of a Class 6 felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than 1 year nor more than 5 years and an additional punishment of a 90 day mandatory minimum jail sentence if the 3rd offense DUI was committed within a 10-year period; and a 6 month mandatory minimum jail sentence where the 3rd offense DUI/DWI was committed within a 5 year period, additionally there will be a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, a DUI/DWI charge may also bring about additional related charges such as involuntary manslaughter, hit and run, reckless driving, eluding law enforcement officer, destruction of property, driving on a suspended license, refusal to take breath test, civil administrative suspension of driver's license; in addition to law enforcement officers impounding and searching your vehicle.