My Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was above the Legal Limit (.08), so Why do I Need to Hire an Attorney?
Driving under the influence (DUI) in Virginia is a serious offense that no one should take lightly, even if it is your first offense. There are harsh consequences for a drunk driving conviction, which may include heavy fines, loss of driving privileges, and even jail time. If you are pulled over for suspicion of DUI or directed into a sobriety checkpoint, you will encounter police officers who are looking for signs of intoxication. Should you exhibit these signs and/or blow higher than .08 on a breathalyzer test, you will be placed under arrest for DUI. In Virginia and all other states, the “per se” BAC legal limit for DUI is .08. This means that if your chemical test measures a .08, you can be convicted for DUI. Even if your eyes weren’t dilated, you weren’t slurring your words, you didn’t stumble while walking or didn’t exhibit any other signs of inebriation, a BAC that is above .08 is all that is needed to determine your guilt. Knowing this, you might wonder why you need to hire an attorney if your BAC was already over the legal limit. After all, the police already have the proof they need, right? So, how is a DUI lawyer going to be able to help me? Even if the state has your BAC recorded at .08 or higher, there are several ways an experienced DUI attorney can help to mitigate the circumstances:
Assistance with Plea Bargaining
One of the biggest advantages of hiring a DUI attorney following an arrest is for assistance with plea bargaining. This is never something you should do on your own. Experienced DUI lawyers know the prosecutors assigned to the case, the judges, and how to argue in a courtroom. If this is your first arrest and charge for DUI, you might be able to negotiate a plea deal. This could mean a reduction in charges, or having the charges dismissed altogether. Your attorney will be familiar with the local courts and they will know what it takes to successfully negotiate a plea bargain. It is important to understand that many Virginia courts are bogged down with heavy caseloads, and if a prosecutor took every case to trial, the courts would be backlogged by several months or perhaps years. For this reason, it is in the prosecutor’s best interests to negotiate plea deals, even in many cases in which they have solid evidence to obtain a conviction. A skilled DUI lawyer will be able to thoroughly assess the case and put together a solid strategy for negotiating with the prosecutor.
Defending Your Innocence
It is possible that you were wrongfully arrested for DUI. But, how can you prove this to a judge? It is virtually impossible to prove your innocence by yourself when it comes to a DUI charge. This becomes increasingly difficult when trying to show that the arrest and investigation into your reported drunk driving was done in bad faith by the officer or officers involved. Some of the questions your lawyer can answer with an investigation of their own include the following:
- Was the traffic stop valid (i.e., did the officer have reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop)?
- Was your arrest valid (i.e., did the officer have probable cause to arrest you)?
- Did the officer follow department procedure for the investigation?
- Was the chain of command for evidence followed?
- Was the field sobriety test conducted according to standard protocol?
- Was the chemical test after the arrest properly administered?
Negotiating a Reduced Sentence
Negotiating a plea deal and negotiating a reduced sentence are two different ways an attorney can help after being charged with DUI. Negotiating a reduced sentence happens after you’ve been charged and convicted for DUI prior to the judge issuing a sentence. Depending on the number of times you’ve been convicted, your lawyer might be able to secure a sentence reduction. This can include less time spent in jail, lower fines paid to the court, and other reduced penalties.
Speak with a Seasoned DUI Attorney
If you were arrested and charged for DUI, either a first offense or subsequent offense, you need to protect your rights and speak with a seasoned DUI attorney. Contact the Pack Law Group at 540-586-7225 to schedule a consultation about your situation. The sooner you consult with an attorney, the sooner you can begin mapping out your defense.