Richmond, VA DUI & DWI Defense Attorney
If you are facing a DUI/DWI you need experienced legal advice and representation from an attorney who cares about your case. A DUI conviction has significant consequences. A skilled and experienced attorney such as Standish Alexander, ESQ can help to minimize those consequences and possibly have the charges dismissed.
Virginia has some of the strictest DUI / DWI laws in the country. For a first offense DUI in Virginia, there is a mandatory one year license suspension (however the defendant can ask the court for a restricted license) and ignition interlock (a breathalyzer) must be installed on the vehicle for at least six months . There is a mandatory five day incarceration period for a first offense DUI if the B.A.C. (blood alcohol content) is 0.15% or higher and a mandatory ten day incarceration if the B.A.C. is 0.21% or higher.
A second offense DUI in Virginia within five years of a first offense will result in a three year license suspension with no eligibility for a restricted license for one year as well as a twenty day mandatory minimum incarceration period. A second offense within five to ten years will also result in a three year license suspension, however, the defendant will be eligible for a restricted license in four months. There is a mandatory ten day jail sentence for a second offense DUI within five to ten years of a first offense. Ignition interlock must be installed on the vehicle after a conviction for a second offense DUI for at least six months of the restricted license period.
A third offense DUI in Virginia within ten years is a Class 6 Felony in Virginia. The offenders driving privileges in Virginia are revoked indefinitely by the VA DMV. To restore driving privileges, the individual must petition the court that convicted him/her. They are eligible for a restricted license in three years and for full restoration after five years. Ignition Interlock must be installed on the vehicle for at least six months of the restricted license period. There is a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 90 days for a third offense DUI within 10 years and a six month mandatory minimum jail sentence for third offense DUI within five years.
For drinking drivers under 21 having a B.A.C. from 0.02 to 0.08 is a criminal offense punishable by a mandatory six month license suspension and up to a $500.00 fine. Underage drinkers are treated the same as drinkers that have reached the age of majority when their B.A.C. is 0.08 or greater. A DUI will stay on your driving record for 11 years and is six point offense in Virginia.
For all DUI's in Virginia the offender is referred to VASAP - the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program. VASAP will assess the offender and refer them ,based on the assessment, to the appropiate level of treatment. All individuals in the VASAP program are prohibited from drinking alcohol while they are participating in the program. Treatment at the low end consists of 16 weeks of group therapy once a week for approximately 1.5 hours. Treatment at high end consists of the group therapy plus several months of individual counseling as was as random drug and alcohol testing.
Your Richmond Virginia Drunk Driving Criminal Lawyer Can Help!
What is a restricted license?
A restricted license is a limited privilege to drive under certain circumstances. Generally speaking, if authorized by statute, a restricted license can be granted with the approval of a Judge for the following situations and circumstance: 1. To and from work and during work if driving is required by the defendant's employer. 2. Medically necessary travel for the defendant, children and elderly residents of his or her household. 3. Taking children to and from daycare and/or school or healthcare. 4. Travel to and from VASAP. 5. To and from church or place of worship. An experienced and effective attorney such as Mr. Alexander can help the accused get the broadest possible restricted license.
The consequences are very severe if you are caught by the police driving outside of those restrictions. Most Judges will impose jail time and DMV will revoke your license for one year with no eligibility for a restricted license.
Commercial Drivers Beware
The need for a good attorney is even stronger for CDL (Commercial Driving License) holders. If you are a CDL holder you are not eligible for a restricted license. What this means is that if you are convicted of a DUI in Virginia, and you have a CDL, you will not be able to drive at all during the license suspension period even for work and medically related purposes.
The Stages Of A DUI Arrest
DUI's are complex and challenging cases. I examine the procedures that were used by the police in each stage of a particular to determine if my client's legal rights were violated.
To successfully prosecute a DUI in Virginia the police have to have lawfully stopped your vehicle. This means that they must either observe a traffic violation or erratic driving behavior that creates a "reasonable articulable suspicion" that said driver is impaired. Cases can be won if the attorney can prove that there was a problem with the stop.
If the police stop a driver and if he or she looks, smells or sounds like they are impaired they can investigate further. They can ask questions about how much drugs and/or alcohol the driver has consumed. They can also conduct field tests known as field sobriety tests to determine impairment. They can also administer a preliminary breath test or P.B.T. which is a hand-held device that measures breath alcohol content. The P.B.T. results, however, are not admissible in court.
Field Sobriety Tests
The police ask a suspect to perform various tests to determine if they are impaired. They may ask the individual to stand and balance on one leg, or walk in a straight line or to close their eyes and touch one finger to their nose. They may also ask the suspect to perform alphabetical or numerical sequencing tests. The results of these tests and the circumstances under which they are given are important. Poor performance on them can result in legally sufficient probable cause for an arrest. However, they must be given on a hard flat surface and any physical or mental injury or disability must be ruled out as a factor(s) effecting performance.
Some Field Sobriety Tests Carry More Weight Than Others
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are three field sobriety tests that it considers to be the most scientifically reliable for the determination of intoxication: 1. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (77% accuracy). 2. The Walk and Turn (68% accuracy) and 3. The One Legged Stand (65%accuracy). Of these three, most judges will only accept the last two because the HGN tests requires physiological observations that are best made by medically trained individuals.
Based on what the officer has observed as to the appearance of the driver, and/or statements they have made, and/or the results of the field sobriety tests the officer may or may not have probable cause for arresting the driver for driving while intoxicated. If they do not have probable cause for an arrest the results of the breath test at the police station are not admissible in court. However, the driver can still be convicted of a DUI based on circumstantial evidence.
The Breath Test, Implied Consent and Refusal
Assuming that there was probable cause for a DUI arrest the results of that test are presumptively admissible in Court in Virginia. That means that the results will come into evidence unless your attorney can prove that the test was improperly administered or that the machine was improperly calibrated or that there were unique physiological factors that resulted in an inaccurate reading. Also, if the attorney files a timely objection, the breath test certificate is not admissible into evidence without the testimony of the breath test operator.
If you refuse to participate in the breath test and the police had probable cause to arrest you for a DUI you can be charged with the separate crime of Refusal which carries an automatic 12 month license revocation. That is because in order to drive in Virginia you are deemed to have impliedly consented to take a breath or blood test for intoxication if the police have probable cause to arrest you for a DWI/DUI.
If you are convicted of a first offense refusal you are not eligible for a restricted license and you may not drive at all for twelve months. These penalties are in addition to whatever penalties are imposed for the underlying DUI. However, it is often possible for an attorney that is a skillful negotiator to have a refusal charge dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to a 1st offense DUI. This will often enable the offender to be eligible for a restricted license.
If you have been charged with a DUI and your legal rights were violated during either the traffic stop, field sobriety tests, or the administration of the breath test at the police station the charges against you may be dropped or reduced.
My experience with the local jurisdictions provides me with insight into the various consequences you may be facing within a particular jurisdiction. The consequences can vary greatly, and my defense strategies are tailored to achieve the best outcomes possible in your individual case.
I represent those charged in the city of Richmond and the surrounding areas of central Virginia including the cities of Petersburg, Hopewell and Colonial Heights, and the counties of Chesterfield, Henrico, Dinwiddie, Hanover, Goochland, New Kent, Charles City, Caroline, Spotsylvania, and Prince George.
Mandatory Penalties for a DUI
1st Offense - 0.08-0.14 BAC
No mandatory jail time ,but because it is a class 1 misdemeanor there is the possibility of up to 12 months in jail. $250 fine. License suspension of 12 months with eligibility for a restricted driver's license. Ignition Interlock required for at least 6 months. It is important to note that even if the defendant does not drive for a year after conviction, they will still be required to install ignition interlock for at least six and up to twelve months once they resume driving.
1st Offense - 0.15-0.20 BAC
The same penalties as above ,but there is a minimum mandatory 5 day jail sentence.
1st Offense - 0.21 and above
The same penalties as above ,but with a 10 instead of a 5 day jail mandatory minimum jail sentence.
2nd Offense within 5 years BAC 0.08-0.14
Mandatory minimum 20 day jail sentence, $500 fine, license suspension for 3 years with eligibility for a restricted license after a year with ignition interlock for 6 months to 3 years.
2nd Offense within 5 years BAC 0.15-0.20
Same penalties as above but with an additional mandatory minimum 10 day jail sentence (total 30 days).
2nd Offense within 5 years BAC 0.21 and above
Same penalties as above but with an addition mandatory minimum 20 day jail sentence (total 40 days).
2nd Offense within 5-10 years BAC 0.08-0.14
Mandatory minimum 10 day jail sentence, $500 fine, license suspension for 3 years with eligibility for a restricted license after 4 months, ignition interlock for 6 months to 3 years.
2nd Offense within 5-10 years BAC 0.15-0.20
Same penalties as above with an addition mandatory minimum 10 day jail sentence (total 20 days).
2nd Offense within 5-10 years BAC 0.21 and above
Same penalties as but with an additional mandatory minimum 20 day jail sentence (total 30 days).
3rd Offense within 10 years - Felony
Mandatory minimum jail sentence of 90 days. Indefinite license revocation. Offender eligible to petition the court for restricted license after three years and for full restoration after five years.
3rd Offense within 5 years - Felony
Mandatory minimum jail sentence of 180 days. Same license penalties and conditions as a third offense within 10 years.
Mandatory Ignition Interlock for all DUI's
All persons charged with a DUI are be required to install ignition interlock for a minimum of six months in order to obtain a restricted license regardless of BAC level of the conviction.
Charged with a DUI? Get help now.
Contact Standish Alexander at 804-355-0016 or send an e-mail for a free case evaluation. Evening and weekend appointments available. Phone calls returned within 24 hrs. You can also find me on Google+.