You realize you’ve exercised poor judgment by violating Virginia’s statute or driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), but it’s important to recognize that an arrest doesn’t equal a conviction. You’re not guilty unless and until the prosecutor proves it beyond a reasonable doubt, and there are several opportunities through the process to fight the charges. One option is challenging the traffic stop that led police to arrest you for drunk driving. When officers don’t strictly comply with the law, there may be a solid defense that could lead to a dismissal or acquittal for drunk driving.
Still, there are very complicated legal issues in DUI cases, so you’ll need a skilled Virginia DUI defense attorney to represent you in connection with the proceedings. In addition, you may find it useful to check out some information on challenging the DUI stop.
Why Police Might Pull You Over: Though the prohibitions on drunk driving are contained within state laws, DUI roadside stops are largely governed by constitutional law. Under both the US and Virginia Constitutions, you have a civil right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. That means officers must have a legal basis to pull you over, such as:
- A Traffic Violation: Law enforcement officers definitely have a lawful reason to stop you if they observe you violating Virginia traffic laws. Though their initial intent is to issue a citation, they could go a step further and arrest you for DUI if they suspect that you’re drunk. Defending drunk driving charges under these circumstances is challenging, but not impossible. Red light cameras or surveillance video from nearby businesses may reveal that you weren’t violating the law.
- Reasonable Suspicion of Drunk Driving: Police may believe you’re drunk driving even when you’re fully complying with traffic laws. All they need is a reasonable, definable suspicion based upon the surrounding circumstances. Your case will depend upon the specific facts, but a reasonable suspicion may come from you driving well under the speed limit or waiting too long after a red light turns green.
Challenging a DUI Traffic Stop: If officers didn’t pull you over for a traffic violation or on reasonable suspicion of drunk driving, any evidence they obtain from you thereafter must be excluded from evidence in the case against you. This would include a breathalyzer or other chemical test used to determine your blood alcohol content. Without this information, the prosecution may have a hard time proving its case. The charges against you could be dropped, or you could get an acquittal at trial.
Consult with a Virginia DUI Lawyer About Potential Defenses
This overview on the legality of a DUI stop may be helpful, but it cannot replace the experience and knowledge that a defense attorney brings to the table. There may be other defenses and grounds to attack the prosecutor’s allegations, so please contact Shannon & Associates, P.C. to learn more about them. We can set up a consultation at our offices in Chesapeake or Suffolk, where we’ll review your circumstances and explain how we can help with your case.