Fairfax DUI Lawyer

In Virginia, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are treated very seriously.

In Virginia, the terms DWI and DUI are often used interchangeably and fall under the same statute. It’s important to know the DWI/DUI laws in Virginia. They are grave offenses that carry significant legal consequences. As your dedicated Fairfax DUI lawyer, Rudolphi Law is equipped to defend your rights and interests should you face such charges.

Understanding DUI/DWI Laws in Virginia

A DUI/DWI charge can arise from different scenarios. Per the DWI/DUI laws, it is illegal to drive in Virginia under the following conditions:

  • A driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or above.
  • A driver meets the legal definition of intoxication, whether by alcohol or drugs or a combination of the two;
  • A driver has a blood concentration of 0.1 milligrams per liter or higher of methamphetamine;
  • A driver has a blood concentration of 0.02 milligrams per liter or
  • higher of cocaine;
  • A driver has a blood concentration of 0.01 milligrams per liter or
  • higher of phencyclidine (PCP); or
  • A driver has a blood concentration of 0.01 milligrams per liter or
  • higher of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).

If you are pulled over by a police officer and arrested on suspicion of DWI/DUI, there are penalties you can face depending on certain factors. For example, a previous conviction or an elevated BAC will result in more serious penalties being imposed.

Implied Consent Law

Virginia also has what is known as implied consent law, which requires all drivers who are stopped for DWI to submit to a breath or blood test or face the possibility of additional charges.

This law is predicated on the idea that driving is a privilege and not a right. Therefore, when you get a driver’s license, you implicitly agree to comply with certain laws and procedures related to driving, including being tested for intoxication.

In Virginia, implied consent means that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you automatically consent to take a chemical test of your blood or breath to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) or presence of drugs.

The “3-Hour Rule” in Virginia is part of the implied consent law and refers to the timing of the test. The Virginia Code states that a person is guilty of DUI if they have a certain concentration of alcohol or drugs in their blood and are arrested within three hours of driving or operating a motor vehicle.

Navigating these laws can be complex, but Rudolphi Law is well-versed in Virginia’s implied consent laws and will help you understand your rights.

Penalties for DUI/DWI Offenses

If you are convicted of a first DWI/DUI offense, you could spend up to a year in jail, face a fine ranging from $250 to $2,500, suffer a 12-month suspension of your license, and be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) placed on your vehicle for 6-12 months as a condition of receiving restricted driving privileges. If it is a second offense, however, you can face a mandatory minimum 10 or 20 days up to 12 months in jail, a fine of $500 to $2,500, a 3-year license suspension, and installation of an IID on your vehicle as a condition of restricted privileges and restoration of your license. Additionally, a third or subsequent offense is considered a felony and you can face a mandatory minimum starting at 90 days up to five years in jail, a fine of $1,000 to $2,500, and an indefinite license suspension. Click here for more information on possible penalties.

Zero-Tolerance Law for Underage Drinking and Driving

There is also zero-tolerance law, which makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to have a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher. Virginia’s zero-tolerance law represents a strict stance against underage drinking and driving. This policy is reflective of many states in the U.S., which have enacted laws in an effort to reduce incidents of underage drinking and related harm, particularly on the roads.

The term “zero-tolerance” refers to the fact that any detectable amount of alcohol in an underage driver’s system is considered a violation.

If an underage driver is found with a BAC of 0.02% or more, they can face serious penalties. For an offense, consequences may include up to 12 months in jail, a mandatory minimum $500 fine or 50 hours of community service, and 12-month suspension of driving privileges. If the underage person’s BAC is 0.08% or higher, they can be charged with a standard DUI, which carries even steeper penalties.

It’s important to note that “zero-tolerance” does not mean that there is no room for legal defense. The accuracy of BAC tests can be questioned, or there may be procedural issues in the manner the person was stopped or tested. A knowledgeable attorney can help explore potential defenses, protect the rights of the accused, and guide them through the complexities of the legal process.

Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP)

The Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) is a state-run program aimed at improving highway safety by decreasing the incidence of driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. It oversees education and treatment for individuals convicted of DUI, as well as other offenses.

VASAP programs involve an evaluation of the offender’s substance use, followed by a course of action that may include education, treatment, or intervention programs. Participants are also monitored for alcohol and drug use while in the program.

Participation in the VASAP program is usually mandated by a court order as part of a sentence for a DUI or related offense.

Legal Defenses for DUI/DWI Charges

Defending against DUI/DWI charges can be complex, and it often involves challenging the procedures and evidence used by law enforcement officers. Here are some common defenses to these charges:

  • Lack of Reasonable Suspicion: Traffic officers are required to have “reasonable suspicion” that a law has been violated before they can stop you on the road. If the officer did not have a valid reason to make the traffic stop, any evidence gathered during the stop may be suppressed in court.
  • Lack of Probable Cause: For an officer to arrest you for DUI/DWI, they must have “probable cause” or a reasonable belief that you were driving under the influence. This belief is usually based on observations such as your behavior, physical appearance, performance on field sobriety tests, or preliminary breath test results.
  • Challenging the Field Test: Field sobriety tests are physical coordination tests administered by the officer at the scene, like the one-leg stand, walk and turn, etc. These tests are subjective and may not accurately determine impairment.
  • Challenging the Eye Test: The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test is designed to measure the involuntary jerking of the eye, which can be exacerbated by alcohol impairment. However, many factors other than alcohol can cause nystagmus, including certain medical conditions or medications.
  • Challenging the Procedure Constitutionally: Everyone has certain constitutional rights, including during a traffic stop or arrest. These rights include the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. If an officer violated any of these rights during the stop, arrest, or subsequent procedures, an attorney might argue to suppress any evidence obtained as a result.

If you have been arrested for DWI/DUI in Virginia, you need Rudolphi Law on your side. Our Fairfax DUI lawyer can help build a strong defense for you. Contact Rudolphi Law immediately to discuss your case.