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Virginia DUI FAQ's

Virginia DUI FAQ's

When you are accused of a DUI, you may have some questions.  Below are some of the more frequently asked questions about drunk driving.  If you do not see an answer to your question or if you want to ask a question of your own, call Attorney Michael C. Tillotson for a consultation.

What is a DUI?
DUI is simply "driving under the Influence." DUI laws prohibit driving a vehicle while intoxicated. In Virginia, any person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .08% who is caught operating a motor vehicle may be charged with DUI. Additionally, driving while under the influence of certain drugs (even prescription) or a combination of drugs and alcohol may be deemed a DUI. DUI may also be referred to as "Driving While Intoxicated" (DWI) and "Operating While Intoxicated" (OWI).

Drunk driving offenses:

  • Operating a vehicle after consuming any amount of alcohol which causes an impairment of your physical abilities.
  • Driving with blood alcohol content of .08 or higher regardless of whether your ability to drive is impaired.
  • Operating a vehicle while impaired after taking drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. When drugs cause any impairment in your physical abilities, you may be found guilty of a DUI.

Can the police pull me over for just any reason?
Police must have “reasonable suspicion,” based on a traffic infraction, or unusual or erratic driving behavior.  Because standards for “unusual” driving behaviors is very low, you may be pulled over for everyday driving that is not even illegal.  In addition, if you encounter a sobriety checkpoint, you may be stopped or investigated before the officer observes anything suspicious about your driving behavior.

What happens if I am pulled over for a drunk driving investigation?
When an officer pulls you over, you will be asked for your driver's license and registration.  You may also be asked additional questions, such as, “Do you know how fast you were going?” or “Have you been drinking tonight?”

Remember, always be well-mannered and never argue with the officer.  Keep your “attitude” to yourself.  Showing attitude can often be reason for further investigation.

If the officer has reason to believe that you are driving under the influence, he can ask you to get out of the car to perform a series of "field sobriety tests."

These measures of your physical and mental ability may include:

  • Reciting the alphabet
  • Closing your eyes and bringing both index fingers together
  • Walking along a straight line
  • Standing on one foot for a few seconds

In addition, some officers typically have a portable breath test meter which you will be asked to blow into. If you suffer from chronic physical problems that walking or balance difficult, it is very important that you inform the officer prior to performing the field sobriety tests.

What happens if I fail the field sobriety tests?
You will be informed that you are being placed under arrest for driving under the influence. You will then be handcuffed, searched, placed in the police car and taken to a jail. You will be held until you post bail, or until a judge releases you on your own recognizance without bail.

What tests are used for determining blood alcohol content?       
There are two methods used to determine your blood alcohol level in Virginia:

  • Blood sample – most exact and effective for prosecution
  • Breath (breathalyzer test) sample – quicker but less reliable

You do not have the right or option to refuse either test.

What happens if I refuse to take a BAC test?
While some people think that refusing the test may help them in court, this is not usually the case.  The penalties for refusal can be much harsher than the penalties for DUI.

What are the penalties for DUI?
Drunk driving penalties in Virginia (and nationwide) have become very severe in the past few years. For a first offense, the maximum possible penalties you could face are:

  • 6 months in jail
  • $2,500 fine plus additional penalty assessments
  • Driver's license suspension for 12 months

Subsequent offenses within 10 years are punished by increasingly harsher penalties. For second and third convictions, your license will be revoked for 3 and at least 5 years, respectively. A third offense may be charged as a class 6 felony, landing you up to 5 years in state prison. In addition to all of the penalties listed above, your auto insurance premiums will increase drastically after conviction for driving under the influence.

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