Penalties for DUI/DWI charges in Virginia

Driving while under the influence, or a DUI/DWI, is a serious offense in Virginia. However, your first offense isn’t treated as harshly as subsequent offenses and your blood alcohol level will alter the level of punishment you receive. Hiring a criminal defense attorney can help you defend yourself against a DUI conviction in Virginia.

Receiving a traffic ticket is frustrating, costly and sometimes even time-consuming. Add a DUI conviction on top of that and your life can actually look very different due to a conviction. That’s because you might find yourself undergoing a yearlong license suspension.

If you’re unsure of next steps in defending yourself against a DUI conviction, here are the facts. This will help you work with local law enforcement and the court system to lessen or eliminate your sentence entirely.

Levels of punishment

Virginia law classifies a DUI conviction as a class 1 misdemeanor when it is your first offense. You’ll serve a yearlong license suspension. To get your license back, you’ll need to take an alcohol safety and education class.

If your blood alcohol content is above .15, you will need to install an ignition interlock device on your car when your license is reinstated.

The cost of a DUI can be quite high. This includes fines, court costs, administrative fees and more. In total, the national average is $6,500 just in fees. That doesn’t include lost wages from time off work for court appearances and trouble getting to work due to a suspended license.

You’ll likely experience an increase in car insurance fees of about $800 a year. Having an ignition interlock device added to your car has a fee attached as well. On average, it’s about $170.

Due to these fees, it’s in your best interest to build a strong defense for your DUI charges. This means hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to build a case.

Attending court sessions for DUI charges

Virginia’s courts vary greatly in the speed and handling of DUI cases. In some jurisdictions, the process moves very fast, while in others, it can take a great deal of time.

Before even appearing before a judge, an attorney can negotiate a plea deal or begin such negotiations. In the time between your arrest for a DUI and your court appearance, your attorney will discover the evidence against you. This will help your attorney know how to plead and your chances of avoiding being charged.

In the case of the prosecutor and your attorney reaching a pleasing plea agreement, you’ll still appear in court. The prosecutor will present the plea agreement to the judge for approval. The judge can then accept or alter the plea agreement to pleasing terms.

If your attorney has not negotiated a plea deal or isn’t recommending you take a plea deal, it is very important that you show up on time for your court date. Defendants who are late can face a warrant for their arrest. If you are arrested for failure to appear in court, it means you might have to stay in jail until your new court date.

Once the judge has ruled on your case, you’ll pay any applicable fines, fees and court costs within 15 days. If you must serve jail time, you’ll pay the fees within 15 days of being released. Otherwise, the money is due within 15 days of your court date.

An attorney can help you work out a payment plan that meets your needs. The court is unlikely to provide you a list of options when it comes to paying your fees and fines. However, an experienced attorney can help with negotiating a payment plan with a minimal added fee from the courts. Additionally, you might be eligible for completing community service in place of paying the fees, which your attorney can discuss at your hearing.

Hiring a Virginia DUI attorney

Even if the evidence against you seems like the prosecution has a slam dunk case, you should hire an attorney to represent you. This may allow you to receive a lesser sentence.

Additionally, a criminal defense attorney can help you negotiate for a restricted license. This would allow you to continue driving yourself to work or school so that your life is not quite as disrupted. It would allow you to keep your livelihood and ensure the wellbeing of your family.

Gore and Kuperman are experienced criminal defense attorneys in Virginia. We’ve helped countless clients in DUI/DWI cases and would appreciate the opportunity to represent you. You can learn more by call us at 703-385-7300.