In Virginia, DUI and DWI charges are very serious. They can have catastrophic effects on your driving record, employment, security clearance, daily obligations, and your freedom. We understand that good people make mistakes and that DUI charges happen. If you get a DUI or DWI in Virginia, taking the first steps to hire an experienced and skilled Fairfax DUI attorney is one of the best ways to build a sound defense and to protect yourself in court from this serious charge. DUI defense attorney John Kassabian is here to help you understand your DUI or DWI charge and knows how to effectively defend against it.
Being charged with a DUI or DWI should not put a permanent mark on your life. After a DUI arrest, Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C. is dedicated to helping you create the strongest possible DUI defense to obtain a favorable outcome in court so that you may move forward with your life.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DUI AND DWI?
Many people want to know about the difference between DWI and DUI charges. In Virginia, the terms are interchangeable. Any individual who drives while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs has committed a DUI or DWI. According to Virginia Code 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 whose blood alcohol tests reveal 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 in Virginia. This is especially true if you were driving under the influence of drugs.
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 or DWI. The officer may make this decision based on many factors to include: 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, results on the volunteer field sobriety tests (roadside filed tests), in addition to the results of the preliminary breath tests (PBT). Drunk driving charges are quite common in Virginia, and judges are known for being particularly harsh on DUI offenses, so working with a local DUI attorney is often in your best interests.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A DUI IN VIRGINIA?
Virginia considers DUI or a DWI as a criminal charge, and unfortunately DUI arrests in Virginia are not hard to come by. Drunk driving charges can lead to a variety of harsh penalties including active jail time, making it crucial that you protect yourself by working with a qualified DUI lawyer in Fairfax.
1ST OFFENSE DUI
Regardless of whether it is your first charge, DUI consequences in Virginia are quite serious. The good news is that DUI jail time and fines increase with the number of offenses, and the penalty for a first offense DUI is somewhat milder. For a first offense DUI in Virginia, DUI/DWI is a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries a penalty of confinement 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, and 1 year of probation with the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP). The good news is that you will have the ability to request the court to issue you a limited restricted driver's license if you agree to the installation of an ignition interlock device in your motor vehicle. You must leave the device installed for a minimum of 6 consecutive months during the period of your license suspension and restriction.
Moreover, an ignition interlock device is equipped with cameras to allow ASAP probation officers to see and confirm if a driver who was convicted of a DUI or 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 tests 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 and DWI penalties in Virginia increase for elevated BAC and repeat offenders. A first offender where the BAC is at least .15 but not more than .20 will 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.
2ND OFFENSE DUI
In addition to the penalties associated with an elevated BAC, where one is convicted of a second DUI in Virginia 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 or 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.
3RD OFFENSE DUI
A common question I get in my practice is: is a DUI a felony? First and second offenses are misdemeanors, but if you are convicted a third DUI in Virginia within a 10-year period, you will be guilty of a Class 6 felony. How much jail time for a third DUI depends on the specifics of your case. A felony DUI charge is 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. Additionally, a 6-month mandatory minimum jail sentence is required if 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 or DWI charge in Fairfax 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.
4TH OFFENSE DUI
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, a 4th offense DUI is considered a Class 6 felony. This is significantly more serious than a misdemeanor and can be punished by any combination of these penalties:
- Preliminary license suspension from the time of your arrest until your trial date
- Vehicle subject to seizure
- Mandatory minimum fine of $1000
- License revoked indefinitely
- Mandatory minimum 12-month jail sentence
- Participation in Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP)
- Required ignition interlock device on your vehicle
- Permanent entry on your criminal record
- Other penalties deemed necessary by the court
As you can see, the penalties for a DUI in Virginia are extensive. If you have reached this point, it is definitely in your best interest to work with a Fairfax DUI lawyer to help you understand the penalties and potentially get them reduced. In some cases, a good criminal defense attorney can get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor, which can have a huge impact on your life.
THE BREATH TEST & VIRGINIA'S IMPLIED CONSENT LAW
In Virginia, you are required to take a breath test if you are pulled over under suspicion of driving while intoxicated and are lawfully arrested for DUI or DWI. Virginia has an “implied consent” law which states that by operating a motor vehicle on a public highway in Virginia, whether you have a Virginia driver's license or not, you automatically consent to the taking of a breath test, blood test, or both blood and breath test to determine the probable alcohol or drug content in your blood (body) if you are lawfully arrested for a DUI or DWI or driving outside of your restricted operator's license pursuant to Virginia Code Section 18.2-272. If you refuse to take breath or blood alcohol tests, you will face additional consequences such as suspension of your driver's license in addition to your DUI or DWI charge, and possibly jail time if there is a prior conviction of DUI or DWI, Refusal or Driving on a suspended operator's license.
HOW TO DEFEND AGAINST A VIRGINIA DUI CHARGE
If you've been charged with a Virginia DUI or DWI or Unreasonable Refusal, don't panic. A seasoned criminal defense attorney, at Kassabian & Kassabian P.L.C., knows from years of experience a variety of ways to defend against your charges to have it dismissed, reduced or penalties diminished. Working with Fairfax DUI attorney, John Kassabian, gives you the ability depending on the facts and circumstances of your case to successfully present the following in your defense:
- The arresting officer did not have a valid reason for stopping or searching you or your vehicle
- The manner in how the officer had you exit your vehicle
- Address issues in how the breath test was conducted
- Address issues in how the field sobriety tests were administered
- Performance of the field sobriety tests
- Miranda rights
- Illegal searches
- Invalid search warrants
- Testimony from witnesses regarding the procedure of your arrest
- Implied consent rights to a breath and/or blood test
- Obtain breath test calibrations and certifications
- Blood test procedures
- Chain of custody of evidence
- Preliminary breath tests procedures and results
- Use of expert toxicologist witness
- Cross examine state witnesses and toxicologist
- Right of confrontation
- Police cruiser dash-cam recordings and procedures
- Police worn body-cam recordings and procedures
- Rebuttable presumptions
- Lack of preservation of evidence
Since the repercussions of a DUI conviction can be serious, you should consult with an experienced and skilled DUI defense attorney immediately and start building your defense as soon as possible.
How to Find the Best Virginia DUI Lawyer for You
After an arrest, many people wonder: is it worth getting a lawyer for a DUI? While each case is different, in many cases a lawyer can be incredibly helpful and fighting a DUI on your own is quite difficult. The chances of getting a DUI dropped in Virginia are not especially high, and Virginia DUI expungement is not common. However, in some cases, especially if the arresting officer made errors or it is your first offense and your blood alcohol concentration was low, it is possible to get DUI charges reduced.
Regardless of the specifics of your case, you should always work with a lawyer with substantial experience in DUI defense. It is also best to work with criminal defense lawyer in your area because they will already have a strong understanding of local judges and prosecutors and will often be able to negotiate more effectively because of this. The more experienced your lawyer is with DUI defense, the stronger these relationships will be, so try to find a DUI specialist. You can find a lawyer in your area by googling “DUI lawyers near me” or “criminal law attorney near me” Keep in mind that if you get a DUI in Virginia with an out of state license, working with a local lawyer rather than a lawyer from your own state can be incredibly beneficial.
Before choosing a lawyer, do your research on legal websites like Avvo to read reviews of the lawyer. In addition, schedule a free consultation so you can get to know your lawyer in person before you decide they are right for you. There are many questions to ask your DUI lawyer during this consultation. Find out about their track record for DUI cases and how they would handle your defense. It is also important to discuss how you will be charged for their services, as DUI attorney cost can vary significantly. Although this is true, finding an affordable DUI lawyer is possible if you do your research.
DON'T WAIT, CREATE A STRONG CASE WITH KASSABIAN & KASSABIAN, P.L.C. TODAY!
If you've been charged with a DUI or DWI or Unreasonable Refusal, time is of the essence. You should consult an experienced and effective DUI attorney serving Fairfax to begin building your case as soon as possible. The lawyer you hire will have a major impact on the outcome of your case.
Local DUI attorney John Kassabian has handled countless misdemeanor and felony DUI/DWI charges in addition to Unreasonable Refusal charges. He is skilled at building strong and effective DUI defense strategies. As a former prosecutor for Fairfax County and Prince William County, John understands how DUI/DWI cases are investigated, how evidence is gathered, how the charges are presented to court and how to defend against them. He will review the details of your case and work in your best interest to have your penalties diminished or even dismissed.
Protect your rights and don't let this mistake compromise your future. Contact Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C. today for a free consultation. (703) 750-3622.