Frequently asked questions
- What is DUI?
- What is BAC?
- Is there a difference between DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated)?
- What happens when I go to Court?
- Will I be convicted?
- If I am convicted, will I go to jail?
- My BAC is over .08 - Should I just plead guilty?
- What happens to my license?
- What is a "restricted license"? Can I get one?
- Do I really need an attorney?
Q. What is DUI?
A. "DUI" stands for "Driving Under the Influence," and it refers to driving a car, boat, or motor vehicle while your ability to drive is impaired by alcohol or other drugs. There are several methods that police officers use to determine if your driving behavior was impaired by alcohol or drugs, which include requesting that you to perform a series of physical tests, and submitting a sample of your breath or blood to be analyzed.
Q. What is BAC?
A. BAC stands for "Blood Alcohol Content," and your BAC number represents the level of alcohol in your blood by percentage. A measurement of .08% means that .08% of your blood is comprised of alcohol, and a reading at this level or higher in Virginia means that there is a presumption against you that your ability to drive was impaired, and that you are guilty of DUI.
Q. Is there a difference between DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated)?
A. In Virginia, the answer is no. Whether your ability to drive is impaired by just alcohol, or drugs, or a combination thereof, it makes no difference, there is just one statute in Virginia that makes driving while impaired a crime.
Q. What happens when I go to Court?
A. The answer to this question varies depending upon what county or city you have been charged in. In general, you will be asked if you would like to plead guilty or not guilty, and you will be provided with an opportunity to obtain counsel. If you choose to represent yourself, you will not likely be able to negotiate with the prosecutor, and anything you say to the police officer can be used against you. Alternatively, should you hire counsel, your attorney will have the ability to speak with the police officer, and negotiate on your behalf with the prosecutor. Ultimately, if an agreement cannot be reached with the prosecutor, you will have a trial where the Court will determine your guilt or innocence, and if you are found guilty, any punishment. Due to recent changes in the law, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible, because there may be time limits imposed on you regarding the raising of certain defenses.
Q. Will I be convicted?
A. Whether or not you will be convicted will depend upon a large number of factors, but is mostly dependent upon what evidence the prosecutor will be able to admit in Court. The admissibility of evidence in a DUI case can be extremely complicated, and in some cases very difficult for a prosecutor. This is why it is important for anyone who has been charged with DUI to consult with an attorney to discuss any possible defenses they may have.
Q. If I am convicted, will I go to jail?
A. Not necessarily, but you need to plan for this possibility. Assuming you are convicted of a first offense of DUI, a judge can sentence you to jail, and up to a maximum of twelve months. How much jail you might get depends greatly upon your BAC level, the jurisdiction you were charged in, and the facts unique to your case. Although an attorney can negotiate a deal that might involve no active jail sentence, there are mandatory jail sentences which are dependent upon your BAC level, so you should consult with an attorney about the specific facts in your case.
Q. My BAC is over .08 - Should I just plead guilty?
A. No. The instrument which provides you with your BAC number is only a machine, and is still subject to error. Additionally, there could be a number of reasons why pleading guilty might not be a good option, and you may have defenses which could be raised on your behalf regardless of how high your BAC might have been. Also, there are mandatory jail sentences which are dependent upon your BAC level that you need to be aware of prior to pleading guilty. You should always consult with an attorney prior to entering any plea which could result in jail.
Q. What happens to my license?
A. In Virginia, when you are convicted of a first offense DUI, your license is automatically suspended by the Court for a period of twelve months. This is separate and in additional to any suspension which could be imposed by the DMV depending upon your driving record.
Q. What is a "restricted license"? Can I get one?
A. A restricted license is a document which can be granted to you by the Court, and which provides you with the ability to drive under a limited set of circumstances, even though your license has been suspended. Prosecutors and judges in different jurisdictions in Virginia handle the issuance of restricted licenses differently, and the likelihood that you will be given a restricted license depends on the facts specific to your case. If obtaining a restricted license so you can drive to work is an important factor for you, you should advise your attorney of this so they can represent you accordingly.
Q. Do I really need an attorney?
A. You should always at least consult with an attorney if you are charged with a DUI. Going to Court without representation or the advice of legal counsel can materially affect the outcome of your case. You are responsible for being aware of the consequences of your decisions in Court, whether you have counsel or not. An attorney can offer advice and direction that could mean the difference between going to jail or not, so the benefits of counsel will likely far outweigh the cost.