DUI Lawyers in Northern Virginia
The DUI lawyers at Livesay & Myers have years of experience in aggressively defending clients against DUI and DWI charges in Manassas, Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Fauquier, Alexandria, Arlington, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Stafford and all across Northern Virginia.
What is the Difference Between DUI and DWI in Virginia?
To the confusion of many, the terms DUI and DWI are used interchangeably in Virginia to describe the same criminal offense. DUI stands for “driving under the influence” and DWI for “driving while intoxicated.” The Virginia statute defining this crime (§ 18.2-266) is titled “driving while intoxicated,” but it actually punishes behavior described as “driving under the influence.” It is enough to make one’s head spin, but use of either DUI or DWI to describe the act in Virginia is essentially a matter of personal preference, with there being no discernible or legally significant difference between the two.
What is the Prosecutor Required to Prove in a DUI/DWI Case?
There are five different, but related, offenses that are prohibited by Virginia’s DUI statute. All five offenses require that the defendant be driving or operating a motor vehicle. They are driving or operating a vehicle while:
- Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more by weight by volume or 0.08 grams or more per 210 liters of breath. If you’re under 21, then the level drops from 0.08 to 0.02;
- Under the influence of alcohol;
- Under the influence of drugs to a degree that impairs your ability to drive or operate a motor vehicle;
- Under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol to a degree that impairs your ability to drive or operate a motor vehicle; or
- Having a blood concentration equal to or greater than: 0.02 milligrams of cocaine per liter, 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamines per liter, 0.01 milligrams of phencyclidine per liter, or 0.1 milligrams of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine per liter.
In order to prove either (1) or (5), the prosecutor will either rely on a blood draw or a breath test. In blood draw cases, the collected sample is sent to the Department of Forensic Sciences for analysis and a separate sample is maintained in case you desire to have it independently tested. The turnaround time for an analysis to come back can be anywhere from a matter of weeks to months after the draw. On the other hand, breath tests are performed at the scene and you will have a result given to you immediately.
It is bit harder to prove (2), (3) or (4) above. In those cases, the prosecutor must show impairment and some erratic driving behavior. Evidence of impairment can include odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, difficulty walking or balancing, and general appearance or behavior. These are commonly observed during field sobriety tests which will be offered by an officer upon suspicion of DUI. The government may rely heavily on field sobriety tests such as the one leg stand, walk and turn, alphabet, or horizontal gaze nystagmus (which measures the responsiveness of your eyes) to establish that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Should You Just Refuse the Blood Draw or Breath Test?
Without a blood draw or breath test, the government would seem to have a much harder time convicting you of a DUI. So why not simply refuse to give blood or do the breath test? Because refusal is a violation of Virginia law. By operating a motor vehicle on a highway in Virginia, you are presumed to have consented to have samples of your breath or blood taken for a chemical test if arrested for DUI. This applies regardless of whether you are licensed in Virginia or another state.
The consequences for a refusal can be severe. A first-time refusal is a civil violation and carries an automatic suspension of your license for one year. Subsequent offenses within 10 years are criminal violations (which means you can get jail time) and carry three-year license suspensions. These penalties are in addition to any punishment you might receive from the court if you are convicted for DUI. Many people refuse the tests because they think that refusal will help them avoid a conviction for DUI and that a one-year license suspension is a small price to pay. While that may sometimes be true, the prosecutor will often be able to prove that you were under the influence just from driving behavior and your general disposition—in which case you may wind up being convicted for both DUI and refusal.
What are the Penalties for a DUI/DWI Conviction in Virginia?
A first offense DUI is a Class 1 Misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine (with a mandatory minimum fine of $250). If your BAC was between 0.15 and 0.20, you face a mandatory active jail sentence of five days, or 10 days for a BAC exceeding 0.20. Additionally, a first offense carries a one-year license suspension and a requirement that you complete an alcohol safety program (known as VASAP). Any driver whose license has been suspended is eligible for a restricted license to drive to work, school, and for other approved reasons. However, that restricted license is contingent upon the installation of an ignition interlock device for at least six months in the driver’s vehicle.
When the DUI is not a first offense, the penalties increase significantly. A second offense DUI that occurs within five years of the first carries a mandatory 20-day jail sentence; whereas a second offense within 5-10 years of the first carries a mandatory 10-day jail sentence. In both cases, the mandatory sentence goes up by an additional 10 days if your your BAC was between 0.15 and .20, and goes up by 20 days if your BAC was greater than 0.20. Finally, any second offense DUI within 10 years of the first carries a mandatory $500 fine and a three-year license suspension.
Any third or subsequent DUI offense in Virginia is a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. A third offense DUI conviction carries a mandatory jail sentence of 90 days, unless it is the third offense within five years—in which case the mandatory jail time is six months. A fourth offense DUI is a Class 6 felony with a mandatory one-year jail sentence. A third or subsequent DUI conviction will also result in a mandatory fine of $1,000 and an indefinite revocation of your privilege to drive. Finally, a vehicle solely owned and operated by the defendant during the commission of a third or fourth DUI is subject to seizure and forfeiture.
How Much Will a Lawyer Cost for a DUI/DWI Case?
First, let’s get this out of the way: you should never choose a DUI lawyer to represent you based solely on how much they charge. Too many people, when facing DUI charges, focus on the cost of an attorney and simply pick the cheapest lawyer they can find or—worse yet—attempt to represent themselves. By attempting to save a little money in the short run, they can cost themselves a great deal more money in the long run.
Keep in mind that the cost of a criminal attorney often ends up being only a small fraction of the true cost of a DUI. A conviction for DUI carries a mandatory fine, court costs, costs for assessment and lab fees, costs/fees for VASAP, and the cost of ignition interlock for at least six months (if you want to continue driving). For a first time-offender, these costs will likely be well over $1,000. If you’re a repeat offender, they will be even higher. Additionally, a DUI conviction can greatly increase your costs for car insurance; for a family policy, your insurance premiums could increase by well over $3,000 per year for a number of years.
Finally, of course, a DUI conviction can greatly impact your career. Jail time means missed days of work, and may result in you losing your job. Having your license suspended, or being reduced to a restricted license, can have financial consequences as well.
The costs for just a first offense DUI can eclipse $10,000-$15,000 before you even look at legal fees. The amount for repeat offenders is often even greater. In these circumstances, it is critical to invest in quality representation. Whether it is in exploring all of the potential avenues to have your case dismissed, or possibly working out the most favorable plea deal to avoid some of the harsher consequences, a good DUI lawyer can make a difference. Not all attorneys are created equal, and you should be comfortable with both the experience and demeanor of the attorney you hire.
Livesay & Myers has a team of attorneys with years of experience in aggressively defending clients against DUI charges in Northern Virginia. Our fee for representation in your DUI case will depend on the facts of your situation, the jurisdiction, the seriousness of the offense, whether it is a misdemeanor or felony, and whether representation is needed for General District Court, Circuit Court, or both. For a standard first offense DUI or refusal case, our fees will range from $1,500 to $2,500. For a second or subsequent DUI or refusal, the fee range may be slightly higher. Finally, our fees for felony DUI cases begin at $3,500.
In order to determine a fair and appropriate fee for defending you against whatever DUI charges you are facing, we offer a free consultation with one of our experienced criminal attorneys. The attorney will talk to you about the details of your case, review any relevant documents, and then quote a fee that is fairly and appropriately tailored to the circumstances of your case.
Our DUI Defense Lawyers
Livesay & Myers, P.C. has a team of experienced DUI and DWI defense attorneys in Northern Virginia. The size and resources of our firm allow us to offer a comprehensive, aggressive defense to each client. Our attorneys are supported by a team of paralegals and law clerks. We also have a network of private investigators and forensic experts at our disposal. Be sure to read our client reviews, then review the profiles of each of our DUI lawyers to find the one who is the best fit for you.
Free Consultation. If you have been charged with DUI or DWI in Northern Virginia, contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced defense attorneys today. Each of our offices are open Monday–Friday, 8:30 am–5:30 pm; during off-hours please send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as possible.