How often do you let loose and have a few drinks with dinner? Do you like to toss back a few beers or sip some wine when you’re out with your friends? Do you always remember to secure a designated driver before going to a party?
Even if you’re a careful, moderate drinker, your precautions might not save you from the Virginia criminal justice system. You can be arrested for intoxicated driving if a police officer decides that you are too inebriated to drive safely. You can be arrested even if you’re sure you’re not drunk. You can be arrested even if blood alcohol tests show you are under the legal limit for intoxication.
What’s the difference between a truly drunk driver and one who has been locked up because the arresting officer made an error in judgment? Not much. Both parties are in a heap of legal trouble, both will face a lot of work to clear their good names, and both will be subject to sobering legal consequences if convicted.
Repeated Offenses Increase Penalties
Drunk driving accidents result in thousands of injuries and deaths every year. As a result, identifying and punishing DUI threats has become a priority throughout the nation. In order to crack down on offenders, every state has its own take on what a DUI offense entails, as well as how to punish violators.
In Virginia, failing to pass a sobriety test isn’t the only thing that can land you in hot water. Having an open container in the passenger area of a vehicle, possessing alcohol on school property, and exhibiting signs of drunken behavior while driving can cause you to be charged, convicted, and susceptible to state punishments for a DUI offense.
According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, these penalties can include:
- Driver's license revocation for one year
- Mandatory minimum $250 fine
- Screening by an Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP), possible intervention
- Installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
- Misdemeanor criminal record
- Driver's license revocation for three years
- Mandatory minimum $500 fine
- Possible jail time of up to one year; mandatory sentencing if conviction was within 10 years of first offense
- Screening by ASAP, possible intervention
- Installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, or on every vehicle you own or operate if the second offense was within 10 years of your last DUI conviction
- Misdemeanor criminal record
- Mandatory indefinite license revocation
- Mandatory minimum $1,000 fine
- Mandatory minimum 90-day jail sentence if the third offense occurred within 10 years of earlier DUI offenses; the minimum becomes six months in jail sentence if the third offense occurred within five years.
- Enrollment in ASAP
- Installation of ignition interlock devices as above
- Possible impoundment of your vehicle
- Class 6 felony charge and permanent criminal record
- As for third offense, but including a mandatory one-year jail term
You Can’t Afford to Gamble When the Stakes Are This High
If a police officer pulls you over on suspicion of DUI, at the moment you’re asked to step out of the car you are far more likely to be arrested than not. We know that innocent people are frequently arrested on drunk driving charges. We also know that some people are arrested on flimsy pretexts and scanty evidence. All these people will be subject to the harsh penalties of Virginia’s legal system if they are convicted or plead guilty.
Van Hardenbergh wants you to know that this doesn’t have to happen. His skilled DUI defense strategy can help you win a favorable outcome from an unfortunate arrest. Van has limited his practice to criminal law and traffic law defense to better serve clients just like you. Call him today to get answers to your questions and the peace of mind that’s been eluding you.