DUI Lawyer in Northern Virginia
Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) are the same offense in Virginia and covered by code §18.2-266. Because this criminal offense puts not only the driver but others on the road in serious danger, a DUI/DWI charge can have very strict penalties such as jail time, license suspension, and fines.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI/DWI, you must make sure you have the best legal defense possible for a higher chance that your penalties may be reduced in court. The J. Madison PLC team has years of experience trying DUI/DWI cases. Our attorneys will arm you with a high quality legal defense to protect your best interests in court.
What Constitutes a DUI/DWI?
Virginia code 18.2-266 declares that any person who drives while under the influence of alcohol or a narcotic is guilty of a DUI/DWI. Usually this is proved with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. It is possible, however, to be charged with DUI for a BAC less than 0.08 percent.
Police officers often use a variety of signs to detect an intoxicated driver. These signs may include driving behavior, odors, speech patterns, general physical appearance and Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs). If an officer notices a driver exhibiting these signs, they may arrest that driver and conduct a breathalyzer or other test to help determine that driver’s level of intoxication.
What are Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) and Do I Have to Take Them?
FSTs are sobriety tests that an officer can use on the side of the road (in the field) to help determine if a driver is DUI/DWI. They consist of a battery of tests that measure a driver’s ability to perform gross motor movements, fine motor movements, and divided attention tasks. The FSTs that are generally used are the three tests endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: the One Leg Stand, the Walk and Turn, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Tests. These tests have a driver stand on one leg, walk in a straight line, or follow a stimulus with their eyes. While these tests are common, a driver is not required to cooperate with the administration of these tests. And as a driver suspected of DUI/DWI, it is not in your interest to attempt these tests or answer questions beyond those legally required.
As a driver stopped during a traffic stop, you are required to provide your driver’s license, the vehicle’s registration, and proof of insurance. You should avoid providing additional information. And remember, an officer may say “I need you to do some simple physical tests for me,” or “Would you be willing to do some simple physical tests;” but you are free to decline to do those tests. Remember that you do not have to take FSTs.
Virginia courts treat DUI/DWI cases very seriously. The penalties for a DUI or DWI charge may vary depending on whether it’s a driver’s first offense or whether the driver has prior convictions. The courts are generally more lenient for first-time offenders, and are accordingly much strict with repeat offenders. The penalties could also depend on the driver’s age and the extent of damage caused to persons or property by the driving behavior.
A DUI first offense is a class 1 misdemeanor and has a maximum jail sentence of 12 months, up to a $2,500 fine, and a 12 month driver’s license suspension. A second offense of DUI committed within 5 years of the prior DUI includes a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 20 days. While a second offense of DUI committed within 10 years of the prior DUI includes a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 10 days. The sentences for these offenses have higher mandatory minimum punishments where a BAC of .15 is also involved. Third Offense and subsequent DUIs are punishable as felonies and carry potential sentences of years in the penitentiary.
There are usually many factors and circumstances involved in a DUI case, such as an officer conducting sobriety tests or if drugs or narcotics were involved. J. Madison PLC can assist with the following varieties of DUI charges:
- Blood case: In Virginia, if you are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, or are arrested for DUI and are unable to take a breath test, the police may take a sample of your blood. There are very specific and important defenses available in these cases that require an attorney experienced in DUI blood cases to fully protect your rights.
- Breath test: Another method of testing intoxication is for a police officer to conduct a breath test. This evidence is also conclusive, but an experienced attorney can make all the difference in pointing out the limitations of this evidence.
- Driving under influence of drugs: A DUI case becomes more complex when the intoxicant is marijuana, cocaine, or any other drug, especially if the drug involved is a prescription medication. Make sure you understand how to best protect yourself in this case.
- DUI Appeals: If you believe you have been wrongly convicted of a DUI in a general district court (or for any other reason), you can appeal your case to have a jury of your peers decide on your guilt and your punishment. If this is your case, you need an attorney who is not only experienced with DUIs, but is also experienced trying cases to juries.
Defending Against a DUI Charge
A DUI/DWI charge can have serious consequences for you, your family, and your reputation, so you should build the strongest possible defense. DUI cases can be tricky and most people think that a driver with a breath test showing a BAC of 0.08 percent is already guilty. That is why you need an attorney who is experienced in DUI/DWI cases to review your case.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI/DWI, you should contact our experienced team. Our attorneys can help protect your rights and minimize or eliminate the consequences you face for a DUI/DWI charge.
J. Madison PLC: Fighting for You
J. Madison PLC is a law firm in Northern Virginia that provides both employment and criminal defense services. Our attorneys are experienced, compassionate, and will make you their number one priority at every step of the way.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI/DWI, contact J. Madison PLC today at (703) 910-5062.
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