Driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the most common crimes in Virginia, with over 15,000 people being convicted of a DUI each year. On top of that, Virginia has some of the toughest DUI penalties in the country, which often includes jail time—even for those convicted of a first-time DUI. However, just because you’ve been charged with a DUI offense doesn’t mean that you’re guilty, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re going to be convicted. At the Robinson Law Firm, PLLC, our dedicated Fairfax criminal defense lawyers have decades of experience keeping our clients out of jail and on the road. We take a strategic approach to every case we handle, ensuring we reach the best possible result in each of our clients’ cases.What Are Virginia’s Alcohol DUI Laws?
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal in Virginia. However, there is a lot to know about the state’s alcohol DUI laws, some of which aren’t intuitive. For example, while the maximum allowable blood-alcohol content in Virginia is .08, you don’t necessarily need to have a BAC of .08 or more to be arrested for a Virginia DUI offense. This is because state law provides several different ways someone can be charged with DUI, including:
- Driving with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or more;
- Driving while “under the influence” of alcohol;
- Driving under the influence of drugs; or
- Driving under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol.
In terms of an alcohol DUI, this means there are two ways you can be convicted. First, you provide a breath or blood test that confirms your blood alcohol content is .08 or greater. And second, even without a blood or breath test, a judge or jury believes you were under the influence of alcohol.
Of course, prosecutors would prefer to have chemical test results in every case, as having blood or breath test results makes their job much easier. However, it’s relatively common for the prosecution to bring DUI charges without this evidence. For example, prosecutors may bring DUI charges against a driver without chemical test results in any of the following scenarios:
- The driver refused chemical testing;
- Law enforcement was unable to administer a blood or breath test, for example, because the driver was seriously injured in an accident;
- The blood or breath sample was illegally in violation of the driver’s constitutional rights; or
- There was a problem with the way in which the test was conducted that affected its reliability.
In many cases, alcohol DUI cases are punished more severely than drug DUI cases. This is because Virginia law contains mandatory minimum sentences when a driver’s blood alcohol content is above certain levels. For example, a first-time alcohol DUI is typically a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of at least $250, and a 12-month driver’s license revocation. The good news is that there is no mandatory jail time, so a judge can use their discretion to sentence a first-time DUI offender to probation.
However, if you have a high BAC, the same maximums apply, but you may face mandatory jail time. For example, if your BAC was more than .15, you’ll the judge must sentence you to at least five days in jail. And, if your BAC was over. 20, the judge must sentence you to 10 days in jail.Are You Facing DUI Charges in Virginia?
If you were recently arrested and charged with a Virginia alcohol DUI, it is important to remember that there are defenses available and that now is not the time to give up hope. At Robinson Law, PLLC, our Fairfax DUI defense attorneys have extensive experience handling complex and high-stakes DUI cases. We are often able to help our clients avoid the worst consequences of a DUI conviction through diligent investigation, strategic negotiation, and aggressive litigation. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation today, call (703) 844-3746. You can also connect with us through our online contact form. We proudly represent clients in Fairfax, Loudon, Stafford, and Suffolk counties, as well as throughout Northern Virginia.