What Court Appearances Will l Face for a Virginia DUI Arrest?
A police officer has just told you that you are under arrest for DUI. You are terrified and humiliated, and have no idea what to expect next. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of an extended legal ordeal. The good news is that an arrest for drunk driving is not the same as a conviction. Until you go to court and have an opportunity to present your side of the story, you have not been found guilty of a crime. This is where an experienced Virginia DUI lawyer becomes invaluable.
Aside from the traumatic events of an unplanned DUI arrest, there is also the fear of the unknown. What happens next and how long will this whole process take?
The Arrest Process for a Virginia DUI
The police begin building their case against you immediately, so it is always helpful to understand your rights in this often-confusing process. When you are arrested for DUI in Virginia, some of the events that are likely to take place include:
- You will be read your rights. The police are required by law to read the Miranda rights statement to you upon arrest. Pay particular attention to this statement, as you are not required to give explanations, and it is true that anything you say can be held against you.
- Your car might be towed. Unless there was another person in your car that had not been drinking, there is a good chance that the police will call for a tow truck and have your vehicle impounded.
- You will be taken to a police station. You will be driven to a police station for booking. At the station, you will be given the mandatory chemical (breath, blood, or urine) test. Usually you are given a breathalyzer test. Under Virginia’s implied consent law, refusal to take the chemical test can result in an automatic driver’s license suspension for one year for your first offense. Second and subsequent offenses can result in a three-year suspension.
Your Release from Custody
Once you have been booked at the jail, the police will contact the judge about your release. The swiftness and method of your release will depend on several factors. These include the time of day of your arrest and the jurisdiction. A judge can release you without bail, set a bail for your release, or decide to hold you without bail. In most cases, you will be released without bail and given a date to return for your next court appearance.
If you have past arrests, the judge may set a bail amount. If this happens, you can call a loved one or bail bondsman to help you secure a release and then ask your DUI attorney to see if the bail can either be lowered or eliminated.
Court Appearances After a DUI Arrest
Your first court appearance will be an arraignment. This often happens within a week of the arrest. You will need to appear in court and simply state whether or not you have hired an attorney. An arraignment is also a hearing where you have the right to be informed of the charges against you. You could plead guilty to the charges at this hearing, but this is not usually advisable.
The next set of hearings in your case will be a preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, and then the actual trial. How quickly these happen depends on the seriousness of the charges against you, as well as the court’s calendar. Misdemeanor cases in Virginia are typically resolved much more quickly than felony cases.
If you enter a guilty plea or your attorney negotiates a deal at any of these hearings, the court will impose its sentence, and your case will be over. If you plead not guilty, your case will continue to progress towards a trial date.
While there may have been errors in your case that can help undermine the prosecution, these will be difficult to identify and prove without the assistance of an experienced DUI attorney. For this reason, attempting to handle a DUI case without the help of a skilled lawyer could be a major mistake.
The Serious Consequences of a Virginia DUI
Even if this is your first DUI in Virginia, a conviction can have lasting repercussions. The penalties for a first-time DUI conviction include fines and possible jail time. You could lose certain driving privileges, face higher insurance premiums, and have a permanent record that will impact your personal and professional life.
A drunk driving arrest might be embarrassing, but the risk of a conviction is not worth shouldering this burden alone. At the Pack Law Group, we specialize in helping people who have been arrested for DUI in central Virginia. We will thoroughly review your case and identify any and all weaknesses in the case against you to provide the strongest possible defense.
Contact us now at 540-586-7225 to schedule your initial consultation.