What will happen if I get pulled over for DUI?
Typically, a police officer will pull you over for suspicion of DUI if he sees you weaving, driving erratically, or violating any traffic law. If, after speaking to you, the officer suspects that you are intoxicated, you will be asked if you've been drinking. You are not required to answer this question. The officer will usually then ask you to get out of the car and perform several field sobriety tests (e.g. count backwards, touch your nose, walk the line, etc.). You may refuse to perform the field sobriety tests, but the officer can testify about your refusal at trial. Depending upon your performance on these tests, the officer may then ask you to take a preliminary breath test. You can refuse to take this test and your refusal cannot be admitted as evidence against you at trial. On the other hand, you are entitled to take this test and see the results, if the equipment is available. Even if you do take the test, the results cannot be used as evidence against you.
But if I refuse to take the test, won't my license be automatically suspended?
Your license won't be suspended for refusing to take the preliminary breath test; however, Virginia has an implied consent law regarding post-arrest tests. By driving on a public road or any area open to the public, you are consenting to having samples of your blood or breath (or both) taken if you have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. For the results of these test to be valid, specific procedures must be followed.
If you refuse to submit to a blood or breath test, the officer will read a statement to you concerning your rights and the consequences of refusing to take the test. Your license will be suspended immediately for 7 days. If a judge decides that your refusal was unreasonable, your license will be suspended for one year. In addition, you can still be found guilty of the DUI charge.
Can I be convicted of DUI if I don't take a blood or breath test?
Yes. You can be convicted of DUI simply on the testimony of a witness (such as a police officer) stating that you were visibly intoxicated while you were operating a motor vehicle. It is enough that the intoxication has affected your manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance, or behavior. Common indicators include glassy and bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, loss of balance, stumbling, and staggering.
What if I take the test but my Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is less than 0.08?
You can be convicted of DUI even if your BAC is less than 0.08 if you exhibit signs of intoxication as noted above. There is a rebuttable presumption that you're not intoxicated if your BAC is 0.05 or less. If it's between 0.05 and 0.08, there is no presumption either way.
What if my BAC is over 0.08 but I don't show any signs of intoxication?
You can be still be convicted of DUI simply because you were operating a motor vehicle while your BAC was 0.08 or higher. This is true even though you show no signs of intoxication. This is known as a "per se" DUI.
Can I be convicted of DUI even if I haven't left the parking lot?
What if I didn't drive the car, but just cranked it up so I could turn on the air conditioning?
The vehicle does not have to be moving in any way for a DUI conviction; it is sufficient for a police officer to show that you were "operating" the vehicle.
What is the punishment for a first-offense DUI conviction?
First-offense DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a $2500 fine, and a one-year suspension of your driver's license. The minimum punishment for a simple, first-offense DUI is a $250 fine and a one-year license suspension plus enrollment in an Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) unless the court decides ASAP is inappropriate. A restricted driver's license may be issued for good cause shown, in the discretion of the court.
If the suspect's BAC is at least 0.15 but not over 0.20, there is a mandatory 5-day jail sentence. If the BAC is over 0.20, there is a mandatory 10-day sentence. If the suspect was transporting a person 17 years of age or younger, there is an additional mandatory 5-day sentence and an additional mandatory fine of $500 to $1000. These mandatory jail sentences and fines can't be suspended by the judge.
What is VASAP?
VASAP is the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program. It is a program designed to make participants aware of the dangers of alcohol abuse. It lasts for 10 to 12 weeks with sessions being held one night each week. Classes are available in Christiansburg and in other locations throughout Virginia. The cost of the Program is $250-$350.
What is a Restricted Driver's License?
A Restricted Driver's License allows the holder to drive only to certain places such as work, school, and VASAP classes. To get a restricted license, the defendant must submit an application to the court. If you are granted a restricted license, make sure that any additional conditions imposed by the court or the DMV (such as payment of a reinstatement fee) are taken care of; otherwise, the DMV might suspend your restricted license.
Besides the legal penalties, what other consequences will a DUI conviction have?
First, a DUI conviction will affect your auto insurance situation. If you are on your parents' insurance policy, they will probably have to remove you from the policy in order to keep it from being cancelled. If you have your own insurance, you can expect to be placed on a high risk policy and see your rates increase 250%. Second, a DUI conviction will be on your record permanently and might require explanation to prospective employers, graduate programs, or professional organizations.
What will happen if I am convicted of a second DUI offense?
It depends on how long it has been since the previous conviction. Consult an attorney.
What if my driver's license comes from another state?
Virginia can suspend or revoke you privilege to drive in Virginia and there will later be a fee to again be allowed to drive. Almost all states have reciprocity on DUI's so you will suffer the penalties both of the Virginia court and the automatic administrative penalties of your home state.
What should I do if I've been charged with DUI?
If you're a VT student, make an appointment to see the SLS Attorney.