In Virginia, it is possible to be arrested and convicted of drinking and driving if you were driving while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, or with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of.08 or greater. Even if it is your first DUI in Virginia, this offense, also known as DWI (driving while intoxicated or impaired), can negatively impact your life. A conviction could result in jail, fines, suspension of your driver’s license and other penalties. Even if you are convicted, it is possible to reduce or eliminate the penalties with an experienced Virginia DUI lawyer to help you navigate the legal system.
What Does “Impaired” Driving Mean In Virginia?
When a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle is compromised by drugs, alcohol or other impairment, Virginia Code 18.2-266 allows for a DWI prosecution. A driver could be charged with a DWI if any of the following are impacted by drugs and/or alcohol:
- Muscle movement and speech
- General appearance
The prosecutor will attempt to obtain a conviction in first-time DUI cases in Virginia, by calling the arresting officer to testify. To connect the driver’s actions to the concept of impairment, the officer may state that they observed the driver doing any of the following:
- Slowly or incoherently speaking
- Slurring their speech
- Swaying while walking or standing
- Stumbling while leaning on things for assistance
- Having difficulty balancing
At the core of the argument, at the time of the offense, the individual was in the driver’s seat, with the keys in the ignition. It will make no difference whether the vehicle engine was running or not. For example, if you had a couple of drinks and then went to your car only to listen to the radio with the engine operating, you could be penalized. If your automobile was stuck somewhere with no prospect of getting it out, but you were in the driver’s seat and your keys were in the ignition, you may be charged with the crime of DUI/DWI.
Can I Be Charged With A DWI If Riding A Bike While Inebriated?
DWI is defined as driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to Virginia law. As a result, if you are riding your bike while inebriated, you will not be prosecuted under this code. However, you could face penalties if you are on federal land, such as a national park, because federal law defines drinking and driving as being intoxicated while operating a vehicle, including a bicycle.
What Are The Penalties In Virginia For A First-Time DUI?
In Virginia, if you are charged with a DUI for the first time, you may face fines, a driver’s license suspension and jail time. You may be able to present legal arguments and facts to avoid the DUI conviction, or the consequences of a conviction making it invaluable to obtain the assistance of an experienced attorney to successfully present the facts or recognize other available options.
The penalties may be determined by several factors including your blood alcohol content (BAC) level. Other penalties may apply if there was an accident that resulted in property damage or bodily injury or if you were under the age of 21 at the time of your Virginia DUI arrest. There may be far greater penalties if there were minor children in the car with you at the time of the offense.
If your BAC was less than.15 on your first violation, you will be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor, which carries the following penalties:
- A $2,500 fine
- Up to 12 months in jail
- A one-year suspension of your driver’s license
If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was between.15 and .20, you will be subject to the same penalties plus a mandatory 5-day jail sentence. If your BAC was higher than .20 the same penalties will apply but the jail sentence will be a mandatory 10-days.
With a first time DUI/DWI, if you meet specific qualifications, you may be eligible for a Restricted Operator’s License. One of the requirements to regain driving privileges will include a required ignition interlock system in your vehicle. This system will require you to give a BAC breath test in order to start the vehicle. Any attempt to tamper with an interlock system is a separate class 1 misdemeanor.
How Can A Virginia DUI Defense Attorney Assist You?
The sooner you hire an attorney, the more quickly the facts of the arrest can be reviewed for any inconsistencies or procedural oversights. Many law enforcement agencies in Virginia, have dash cams that should be reviewed as soon as possible. In some jurisdictions, the retention period of that video may be less than the time period it takes for your case to be heard in court. An attorney can request and review any video before it is automatically overwritten by the retention system.
If you are charged with DUI or DWI in Virginia, contact the Law Offices of Kermit A Monge to immediately begin the process of preparing for your case in order to reduce or eliminate penalties.