Virginia has some very tough drunk driving laws, and if you are caught drinking and driving, expect to be treated harshly. The state decided long ago to send a message that drunk driving will not be tolerated.
Even if you don’t think you had enough to drink to register intoxicated (0.08% BAC) take note – the officer may have the option to arrest you even if you register under the level of intoxication.
Under Virginia law, your driver’s license gives law enforcement the right to test you for intoxication, as long as the arresting officer believes you may be intoxicated by drugs, alcohol or prescription medications.
You need to take this seriously! Virginia will not generally be willing to offer any negotiations that can lower the fines, jail, and license suspension.
The Pack Law Group is your Lynchburg, Virginia DUI defense
counsel, and we should be your first call you make if you are pulled over for
suspicion of drunk driving. We can work with you through the process to
preserve your rights and even appeal your conviction.
Testing for DUI
DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence, and the legal minimum for intoxication per se is 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The legal limit will be lower if you are a minor.
How much is .08% BAC?
As an example, for a 140-pound person, that usually means about two or three drinks, and for someone weighing about 200 pounds, about three or four drinks.
The officer has the latitude to arrest you even if you are not driving. Just sitting in your vehicle and acting intoxicated may be all that is required to take you in since it does not appear you are capable of driving.
Drugs, even prescription medication, often does not mix with even small amounts of alcohol and can make someone appear to be intoxicated.
The officer generally will perform a field sobriety test (FST) at the time you are pulled over to determine if you have been drinking. This may be walking a straight line, following a moving object with your eyes, standing on one leg, or something similar. You are not required to submit to a field sobriety test, and it is generally not in your best interests to do so.
A breath test utilizes a breathalyzer and measures the amount of alcohol in your system. When you are pulled over for DUI, you may be and asked to take a preliminary breath test (PBT).
As with the field sobriety test, you are not required to take a PBT. However, you are required to submit to the mandatory chemical (breath or blood) test that is administered after a DUI arrest under Virginia’s implied consent laws. Refusal to take this test could result in the automatic suspension of your driver’s license.
There has been a recent discovery that someone who suffers from acid reflux may have an unusually high BAC reading that does not accurately reflect the amount of alcohol that’s been consumed. That’s because the deep lung air exhaled into the breathalyzer may include stomach acid that contains unabsorbed alcohol.
This is known as GERD, or esophageal reflux disease, and can lead to an inaccurate breathalyzer test and may serve as a defense to your DUI conviction.
Drunk Driving Penalties
First Conviction – This is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, and the accused may be fined up to $2,500 and may face one year in jail, even if this is their first offense. Their driver’s license may also be lost for one year from the date of conviction.
As an option, an ignition interlock monitoring device may be installed in their vehicle. This works by disallowing the car to start if, after the driver blows into the device, he/she is found to register intoxicated.
Second Conviction – If the BAC registers at least twice the legal limit, the accused will face five days in jail, and if he/she has prior convictions, this could mean up to one month in jail. Penalties may also include the loss of driving privileges for up to three years.
Third Conviction – This is a Class 6 felony and requires the accused to spend three months in jail if the prior offenses were committed within 10 years, six months if the prior offense was within five years. The defendant will also have to pay a $1,000 fine. Third convictions within ten years will result in losing your license permanently.
Unlike other states, Virginia does not provide any alternative
program for DUI. These are known as diversion programs and some states offer
first-time offenders the opportunity to avoid the stigma that a criminal conviction
Underage Drinkers – Zero Tolerance
Nationwide, the legal age for drinking alcohol is 21, but that does not stop many young people.
If you drink and drive and are under the age of 21, expect the harshest penalties. The amount of BAC to prove intoxication drops to as little as 0.02%. This is meant to discourage all drinking among the underage population, even just a beer or glass of wine with dinner.
The penalties reflect zero tolerance for alcohol consumption if you are under 21. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Expect a penalty which includes losing a license to drive for one year, a fine of $500, and up to 50 hours of community service.
If you are stopped by law enforcement, you may also face a separate charge of reckless operation, a criminal charge. This may involve speeding or any reckless operation of an automobile that has the potential to harm the public.
Expect that points can be added to your license by the Department of Motor Vehicles that can result in additional penalties.
Contact a Lynchburg, VA DUI Lawyer
The experienced team at Pack Law Group understand this is a difficult time for you. We will offer you an initial meeting where we ask many questions to put together the scenario that led to you being charged.
There may be problems with how law enforcement handled your case, with the field testing, and the passage of time. We may find you have a GERD defense that adversely affected your blood alcohol content reading.
After considering all of our options, we will come up with the best defense that preserves your rights. A drunk driving arrest does not have to be the end. Allow the Lynchburg, Virginia DUI defense attorneys at the Pack Law Group to help resolve your case.