You may have made a regrettable mistake in getting behind the wheel after a few too many, but police are rarely sympathetic toward drivers who violate Virginia’s statute on Driving While Intoxicated (DWI/DUI), even during the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic. Likewise, prosecutors tend to aggressively pursue drunk drivers to get a conviction, which could mean harsh sentencing, a driver’s license suspension, and other consequences.
Still, even after you’ve been arrested, there are a few tasks and considerations that can benefit your position when your case goes to trial. Your top priority should be consulting with a knowledgeable Virginia DUI defense lawyer, followed by a few Do’s and Don’ts.
While the number of DWIs/DUIs have decreased since the shelter in place order in mid-March, they are in fact still occurring. With liquor stores being classed as essential during the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic and a the shelter in place preventing people from going anywhere, alcohol sales have seen rise over the last few weeks, nationwide.
DO consider the consequences of refusing the chemical test after the arrest. Virginia has an implied consent law, wherein you agree to take a breath or blood test to determine you blood alcohol content (BAC) once officers put you under arrest. If you refuse, you could be charged with a civil offense and, if convicted, will automatically lose your driving privileges for one year. Plus, you may still face drunk driving charges in addition to penalties for refusal to blow. However, if your BAC is .15 – .20, you will face a mandatory jail sentence of 5 days. If your BAC is .21 or greater, you will face a mandatory jail sentence of 10 days.
DON’T believe the myths about breath tests. You’ve probably heard at least one myth about ways you can skew a breathalyzer test. To debunk a few of them, consider:
- Chewing gum or mints might hide the odor of alcohol, but it won’t impact your BAC level;
- Sucking on a penny will not affect the breathalyzer reading because these devices are calibrated to ignore substances like copper;
- Hyperventilating may actually increase your BAC, but – either way – police recognize this move and will probably make you take the test again; and,
- Burping just before or during the breath test will not change your BAC.
DO sign up for AA or VASAP if you have an alcohol addiction: Completing the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program will be a requirement of your sentence if you are convicted of a DUI/DWI. This alcohol evaluation and educational program is intended to help you get treatment if you need it, and to educate you about the dangers of drunk driving. Keep in mind that COVID-19 may affect the schedule and/or availability of the courses while the shelter in place order is in effect.
DON’T underestimate the penalties you face. You may have a solid defense to the charges, but you should at least be aware of the penalties for violating Virginia’s DUI law. For a first-time conviction, you could be sentenced to a maximum of 12 months in jail and a fine ranging from $250 – $2,500, plus a one-year driver’s license suspension. Plus:
- Penalties increase for subsequent DUI convictions, including a second offense in five years and a third offense in 10 years.
- The driver’s license suspension period goes up to three years for a second conviction, and your privileges could be revoked indefinitely after a third offense.
- There are also harsher penalties for cases involving excessive BAC drunk driving. If your BAC was above .15 percent, you will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum imprisonment of five days. When your BAC is in excess of .20 percent, the mandatory minimum jail term is 10 days.
- Ignition interlock for a minimum of six months.
DO Contact a Virginia DUI Defense Attorney Right Away for Legal Assistance
As a final tip, you should get in touch with a Virginia drunk driving defense lawyer as soon as possible after you were arrested for DUI. Our team at Shannon & Associates, P.C. has extensive experience representing clients in these cases, and we are better able to obtain a favorable outcome when we are on board early. To learn more about our legal services in the area of criminal defense, please contact our office in Chesapeake, VA to set up a consultation.