Articles Posted in DUI

By Andrew Criado, Senior Attorney

The four most important words in criminal law: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. What does that mean? It means that a person charged with a crime cannot be convicted and punished unless the prosecution can prove the defendant’s guilt in court beyond a reasonable doubt. The government’s evidence has to erase all reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. What if, at the end of the prosecution’s case, there remains some doubt about whether the defendant committed the crime? Then the charge must be dismissed. What if the prosecution proves that the defendant probably committed the crime? Then the charge must be dismissed. In a criminal case, any conclusion other than proof beyond a reasonable doubt requires that the charge be dismissed—forever.

The government gets one shot at proving its case. This concept is important because it makes clear that a criminal case is about whether the government can prove the crime rather than whether the crime actually happened. There are many cases where the evidence shows that the defendant most likely committed the crime but the charge is nonetheless dismissed because the evidence does not meet the high burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

By Matthew Crowley, Managing Partner

A Miranda warning is designed to be a protection against self incrimination, that is, a protection from defendants being forced to make statements or give other information that will help the government convict them of a crime. The Miranda case says that where a person is in custody and being interrogated (asked questions) those circumstances are similar to a forced confession. For that reason, the police must first warn a person who is in custody and being questioned that they have the right to remain silent, that what they do say will be used against them in court, and that they have the right to a lawyer. Unless the warning is given, the statements made by the defendant cannot be used in court.

Why did I receive a Miranda warning? Simply, because the police hope that you will make statements they can use to convict you. It is never just to “get your side of things,” it is always to build a case against you.  At the end of the warning, you may be asked if you understand you rights and are willing to waive them. The answer should be “no” 100% of the time until you can talk to a lawyer. Any statement you make, even if you declare your innocence, can be twisted and used against you.

By Bret Lee, Senior Attorney

Northern Virginia is a hub of federal activity. Throughout Fairfax County, Arlington, Alexandria, and Prince William County are numerous federal agencies, parks, and buildings. Traffic crimes committed in national parks or on military property can result in different charges than you would normally face in Virginia state courts. One very common charge is driving while intoxicated (DWI) or under the influence (DUI), which becomes a federal charge if it occurs on federal property. DWI and DUI charges in Federal Court are a cross between state law violations and federal laws and regulations such as the CFR.

Whether you received a DUI charge on the grounds of Fort Belvoir or a DWI leaving Wolf Trap, you need to be prepared and have the right advocate by your side. Federal charges can have massive implications for immigration, job applications, and security clearances. There are a wide variety of consequences that a federal judge can impose in a DWI sentencing. Jail and loss of driving privileges are a real risk with these charges. Federal security clearances can be severely affected if you are convicted of a federal DUI.

By Andrew Criado, Senior Attorney

The first line of attack against a DUI in Virginia is the traffic stop. If the defense can show that the police stopped the car without a reasonable basis, the court will suppress the evidence gained from the stop, and the DUI will be dismissed.

When can the police stop a car?

I’ve had a handful of people ask me lately if displaying a certain ‘warning’ on your car window will excuse you from complying with a DUI checkpoint. The message reads something along the lines of: “I remain silent. No searches. I invoke my right to an attorney.” This won’t work in Virginia. A valid checkpoint is a lawful stop and you are required to provide your license and registration.

DUI checkpoints have many names – “roadblocks” and “traffic safety checking detail” are among the most common. Police are not only required to minimize the delay time for each vehicle at a roadblock, but they are also not authorized to stop every car passing through. Typically, they briefly detain every fourth or fifth car, but the mathematical equation they employ varies.

If the officer believes you’re driving under the influence, you will be asked to move your vehicle to the side of the road for additional questioning. Police may have a reasonable suspicion that you have consumed too much alcohol prior to driving if you show any of these signs:

Have you ever wondered when a police officer is authorized to search you? Or if he has enough evidence against you to make an arrest? This is where the familiar terms “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause” come in to play. These concepts are fundamental in determining if and when a person can be detained for questioning, searched and arrested (seized).

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. But what exactly does ‘unreasonable’ mean? Rather than following a neat, concise set of legal rules, reasonable suspicion and probable cause are based on the circumstantial interpretation made by the police officer(s). However, the officer’s interpretation must align with the Constitution, which is not always the case. In this week’s post I break down these two terms and provide examples through hypothetical DUI stops.

● Reasonable suspicion for an investigative stop – An officer can briefly detain a person if he has a reasonable belief that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed. The officer may also perform a limited search (frisk) of the outside of the person’s clothing if he has a reasonable belief that the person is armed. The officer’s belief must be based on facts or circumstances. In other words, an officer cannot simply “guess” or “feel” as though a crime has been, is being, or will be committed.

If you’re pulled over for a simple traffic violation, you may feel intimidated. If you’re pulled over after you’ve been drinking, that intimidation is often accompanied by a mix of emotions – especially if you don’t know your rights! The Commonwealth of Virginia is among the strictest states when it comes to drinking and driving. Although an officer doesn’t need much to charge you with DUI in Virginia, the charge must be supported by evidence for a conviction to follow it. This week’s blog demonstrates what to do (and not do) in order to leave the prosecution with as little evidence against you as possible.

In order to justify a traffic stop, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that you are in the process of committing a crime, you have committed a crime, or you are about to commit a crime. Most individuals arrested for DUI or DWI are originally pulled over for speeding, failure to fully stop at a stop sign, swerving, or some other type of erratic driving behavior (i.e. you have committed a crime). However, just because you drank before you drove, doesn’t mean you are guilty of DUI or DWI. Please visit our DUI & DWI page to understand the difference between driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated.

IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE STOP

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