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Stafford County, VA DWI Cases

If you have been charged with DUI or DWI in Stafford County, you will need a highly skilled DUI attorney to represent you. Stafford is a “no nonsense” jurisdiction, meaning both the judges and prosecutors rarely show leniency when it comes to DWI offenses.

Your first court appearance is known as an arraignment. This hearing is waivable if you hire an attorney before the court date. When our DUI lawyers are retained on a Stafford case, our process begins by contacting the clerk’s office for available trial dates. We then confirm the best trial date option with the prosecutor’s office. Next, we submit our documents with the clerk, who then waives the arraignment and sets the case out for trial.

In a recent case coming out of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his DWI conviction. Originally, a police officer found the defendant sleeping in his car, and upon several sobriety tests, the officer discovered that the defendant was intoxicated. The defendant was charged and convicted of driving while intoxicated. He appealed, arguing that there was not enough evidence to support the guilty finding. The court of appeals considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately denied it, concluding that the court could reasonably infer his guilt based on the facts presented by the officer.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, late one night in 2019, an officer was dispatched to investigate a report of two people asleep in their car. The officer found the reported vehicle partially parked on the sidewalk of a public street. Inside, the defendant and his girlfriend were both asleep. The car engine was off, but the gearshift was in the drive position and the headlights were on. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer smelled alcohol coming from inside.

The defendant woke up and agreed to provide a breath sample for the officer. After the breath test, the defendant admitted to the officer that he was likely over the legal limit. He also stated repeatedly that he knew he had messed up. The officer informed the defendant that his preliminary breath test result was .11, substantially over the legal limit of .08. The officer arrested the defendant for DWI.

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In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his convictions of drug possession and driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One of the defendant’s main arguments on appeal was that the evidence failed to support a showing that he was guilty of driving while under the influence; given this lack of evidence, said the defendant, the conviction should be overturned. The court examined the evidence and ultimately disagreed with the defendant, affirming his convictions.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a patrolling officer was dispatched to a service road one evening to check on a man who was reported to be asleep in his car in the middle of the road. When the officer arrived, he found the defendant sleeping in the driver’s seat. The officer approached the defendant, at which point the defendant took his foot off the brake pedal and unintentionally shifted the car forward.

The officer began asking the defendant questions, and he immediately noticed that the defendant appeared to be under the influence of some kind of substance. The defendant was fidgety, antsy, and speaking quickly. He could not remember his birthday, and he claimed that he had a knife on his person. The officers arrested the defendant and immediately found methamphetamine in plain view next to the driver’s seat. There was also an open container of liquor sitting on the center console.

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In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant appealed his convictions for driving under the influence and refusing to submit to a field sobriety test. On appeal, the defendant argued that the police officer he spoke with did not have reason to suspect that he was intoxicated, thus making it illegal for the officer to force him to submit to a breath test. The court disagreed with the defendant, citing several indictors that the officer used to suspect that the defendant had been consuming alcohol.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, an officer in Virginia was on patrol one evening when he came across a single-vehicle accident on the side of the road. The officer saw that a car had struck a tree, but also that the car was unoccupied with a cold hood and warm engine. The officer also noticed several beer cans outside of the car’s door.

While investigating the scene, the officer saw the defendant emerging from behind some bushes. The defendant acknowledged that the car next to the road belonged to him and explained that the crash had happened a few minutes prior because he had turned off for the exit too soon. The officer asked the defendant for his driver’s license, and the defendant could not find it, even though it was later found in one of his pockets.

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At Robinson Law, PLLC, we too often hear that our clients don’t know their rights when they are pulled over by law enforcement on the road. As we have articulated in previous blog posts, a person is legally considered to be operating under the influence of alcohol if that person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher. What are a driver’s rights, though, between the initiation of the traffic stop and the BAC test? If you are a driver in Virginia, you should be well versed in your rights on the road.

When Can An Officer Ask You to Perform a BAC Test?

If a police officer ever stops you on the road and tells you they need a reading of your BAC, that officer must have what is called “probable cause” to suspect that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If, for example, the officer has seen your car swerving or has noticed that your words are not making sense, that officer might have probable cause to conduct a breathalyzer test. Without any probable cause, the officer cannot legally conduct this kind of test.

If you have either been arrested for a DUI or under suspicion of a DUI, the officer can legally require you to perform a BAC test. This means that by driving on Virginia roads, you are offering your implied consent to be tested for alcohol when you are arrested for suspicion of driving while impaired. The important takeaway is that as long as you have not given the police officer reason to think you are driving under the influence, the officer has no right to test you, either through a breathalyzer or a sobriety test (i.e., asking you to walk in a straight line).

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In a recent opinion from a Virginia court, the defendant’s appeal was denied because he did not meet the technical requirements necessary in filing his appeal. On all of his court documents, the defendant listed the county instead of the Commonwealth as the prosecuting party, which the court concluded was incorrect. Due to this error, the court refused to consider the defendant’s appeal, and his original guilty verdict was affirmed.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was charged and convicted of driving under the influence. He was sentenced to twelve months in prison as a result of his conviction. After a sentencing hearing, the defendant appealed. He listed himself as the defendant in the case and he listed the Commonwealth of Virginia as the opposing party. Before the appeal, the case had listed the defendant as one party and the county where he resided as the opposing party, recognizing the county instead of the Commonwealth as the plaintiff. Because of the disagreement over which entity constituted the opposing party, the court had to first decide who was the proper opposing party before considering the defendant’s legal arguments in the case.

The Decision

The Commonwealth of Virginia filed a motion in the case, asking the court to remove them from any documents referencing the defendant’s DUI. According to the Commonwealth, the issue at hand was a local issue and was better suited for county lawyers rather than Commonwealth lawyers. The Commonwealth wrote to the court that the Attorney General lacks the authority to deal with “matters related to violations of local ordinances.” The Commonwealth, therefore, asked to withdraw from the case. The court agreed with the Commonwealth’s reasoning, accepting the motion to withdraw given the fact that the Attorney General does not represent localities.

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As we have noted on our blog in the past, the Commonwealth of Virginia is known for having some of the strictest DWI and DUI laws in the United States. Given this reality, it is crucial to be aware of the DUI penalties in Virginia so that if you ever find yourself facing DUI charges, you are aware of your rights under the law.

In Virginia, a person is legally considered operating under the influence of alcohol if that person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher. Even if a driver’s BAC is lower than .08, though, if an officer decides the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired, it is possible that he or she could face the same penalties regardless. DUI penalties apply whether a driver is operating a car, boat, or watercraft.

First v. Subsequent Offenses

In Virginia, the punishment for a first DUI offense differs from that of a subsequent DUI offense. If a driver is found guilty of driving under the influence and it is his or her first time with a DUI conviction, the punishment involves a minimum $250 fine as well as driver’s license revocation for one year.

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In a recent opinion from a Virginia court, the defendant’s appeal of his DWI conviction was denied. On appeal, the defendant argued that there was not enough evidence to prove that he was driving while intoxicated, and thus that his guilty verdict was unjust. The court disagreed, rejecting the defendant’s challenge and affirming his original conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a State Trooper received a call just after midnight one evening asking him to respond to an accident just down the road. The Trooper quickly arrived at the scene and saw a pickup truck with damage on all sides, leading him to believe that the truck had left the road and rolled over. At the scene, the Trooper saw only the defendant, one witness, and emergency personnel who were responding to the defendant’s injuries.

The defendant was the only person at the scene who was injured. He had blood on his face and he also smelled of alcohol. When the Trooper asked the defendant what had caused the accident, the defendant replied that he did not remember. He only said that he was on his way home from a friend’s house at the time of the crash. The Trooper ran the vehicle through his system and found out that the truck was registered to a female who lived with the defendant. She was not at the scene.

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The Commonwealth of Virginia is known for having some of the strictest DWI and DUI laws in the United States. With strict policies already in place, law enforcement will be even stricter during the holiday season as they pull over potentially impaired drivers. The end of the year is a busy time for police officers, and they will be monitoring the roads even more closely as Christmas and New Year’s approach.

Now through the end of the year, 116 different Virginia law enforcement agencies will be patrolling the streets to keep drunk drivers off the road. These agencies are part of Governor Northam’s push to keep drunk driving to a minimum and to keep travelers safe over the holidays. Mindful of the fact that 272 Virginians died in car crashes involving alcohol in 2020, officers will be keen to pull over individuals that they even slightly suspect might driving be under the influence.

DWI v. DUI

The difference between a DWI and a DUI in the Commonwealth of Virginia is relatively simple: a DWI involves some kind of test administered by law enforcement. An officer might give a Breath Test or a Blood Sample Test, then arrest an individual for a DWI if the driver’s blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent or higher. A DUI, on the other hand, does not have any scientific component to it. A DUI is a charge given when a driver is “observably” impaired by alcohol or drugs. No test is necessary for an officer to charge a driver with a DUI.

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If you have been a longtime driver on Virginia highways, it’s possible that you have seen what law enforcement refers to as a checkpoint. These checkpoints allow officers to stop cars and see if drivers have been drinking or violating any other traffic law. Checkpoints greatly increase the number of arrests made on the roads in Virginia, and there are certain laws about what police officers can and cannot do when conducting stops in this particular way. If you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, it is crucial that you know your rights.

General Guidelines for DUI Checkpoints

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. On the road, this means that a police officer cannot unreasonably search your car or unreasonably seize personal items from your car. In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that DUI checkpoints are generally legal; however, there are restrictions on the setup and implementation of these checkpoints.

In Virginia, DUI checkpoints must be designed and implemented by senior officers at the police department. Checkpoints must be safe and cannot keep drivers detained for an unreasonable amount of time. All officers working the checkpoint must be sufficiently trained, and the checkpoint cannot be unsafe for any drivers going through it.

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