A first offense DUI can be an incredibly scary and intimidating experience, but it is important to remember that although it may feel like it at the time, your entire life won't come to an end because of the charge. That said, knowing what to expect after your first DUI can go a long way toward reducing your anxiety and making sure you're in a position to do everything you can to get a good outcome for your case. I'll tell you more about what happens after this charge and discuss when contacting a Fairfax DUI lawyer may be worth considering. If you determine that you need assistance, Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C. can help!
Common Penalties After a First Offense DUI
While there are various penalties we commonly see after a first offense DUI, it's important to remember that each and every case is different, and penalties can change significantly depending on the factual circumstances about your case. Regardless of the punishment, however, first offense DUIs are Class 1 misdemeanors, which are very serious criminal charges.
Under Virginia Code 18.2-266 it is illegal to drive a vehicle if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or above. Virginia Code 18.2-270 specifies that anyone found guilty of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will automatically have to pay a mandatory minimum $250 fine. In addition, you will have your driver's license suspended for 12 months. In order to eventually have your license reinstated, you will also have to register for ASAP, a Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program course.
And finally, if you are approved for a restricted driver's license (more on that below), you will need to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle which will test your breath for alcohol before you can drive. While the driver's license suspension period by statute is for 12 months, typically the court, if it grants a restricted operator's license, will do so with the ignition interlock device being installed in your vehicle for the first 6 months of the driver's license suspension. The ignition interlock device must be installed in your vehicle for a minimum of 6 months!
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and DUI Penalties
After a first offense DUI in Virginia, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a telltale indicator of the kinds of penalties you may face.
It is important to keep in mind that the higher your BAC, the more jail time you will face, even if it's your first offense. For a BAC between .15 and .20, you will spend 5 mandatory minimum days in jail for your first offense; if your BAC was above .20, you will spend a mandatory minimum 10 days in jail. It so worth it to work with a DUI lawyer in Fairfax who can look into the basis of the BAC level and who may be able to get this penalty reduced, the charge amended or even dismissed.
Other Circumstances Affecting DUI Penalties
The mandatory minimum penalties listed above may be greater or lesser depending on the circumstances of your arrest. A Class 1 misdemeanor carries up to a $2,500 fine and or up to 12 months in jail, so if your factual circumstances were more serious you may see yourself possibly paying more or facing more jail time. If your BAC was lower and there were no aggravating factors surrounding your case, you may be facing a lesser fine and jail time.
If, for example, you seriously damaged someone's property because an accident occurred, depending on the judge you may face a harsher punishment, even for your first offense. This is even more true if you caused an accident where someone was injured, especially if their injuries were severe. Similarly, if you were driving with children who are minors in your vehicle, you will see different penalties, such as five additional days of jail time and a $500 to $1000 fine.
Another complicating factor comes into play if you were under 21 years old when you were arrested. Since drinking alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal, if your BAC was between .02 and .08, you will pay a $500 fine and have your license suspended for 12 months. Regardless of your age, if you are stopped while driving with a license that was restricted, suspended or revoked for a DUI, if your BAC is .02 or above, you may be charged with a Driving after Forfeiture of your License, which is also a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail, and or, fine of up to $2,500.00. Additionally, DMV will severely revoke your Virginia driver's license. There is nothing worse than having a criminal record when you are young and working with a Fairfax DUI attorney may help you avoid this.
Getting a Restricted Driver's License After a First Offense DUI
For many people, outside of a jail sentence, the loss of their driver's license is one of the most impactful part of being convicted of a DUI. It makes getting to work and school incredibly difficult if not impossible, and can impact not just your life but your children's or your partner's.
As mentioned above, you will no doubt lose your driver's license after a first offense DUI in Virginia, but you may be eligible for a Restricted Operator's License. For example, by registering for VASAP, you will be eligible for a license that allows you limited driving privileges. With this type of license, you will be allowed to drive to essential activities such as work, school, or medical appointments, or to pick up or drop off your kids. Here is a list of other activities you may also be allowed to do with a restricted license. A DUI lawyer in Fairfax can tell you more about the application process after a first offense.
How a DUI Attorney Can Help
Working with an experienced local DUI lawyer is one of the best decisions you can make after a first offense DUI, regardless if your case is factually aggravating or not! A good DUI lawyer can often help you get a successful outcome. If your BAC is at the lower end of the spectrum, they may be able to get your charge reduced or dismissed so it will not remain on your criminal record.
Since a DUI is a criminal charge in Virginia, you want to do everything you can to get it reduced, and the best way to do this is by working with a qualified criminal defense attorney.
John Kassabian has been defending people charged with DUIs for over 25 years. Having served as a Fairfax County prosecutor, he has decades of experience working with area judges and prosecutors and can leverage this knowledge and experience to support your case.