10 Reasons to Retain a DUI Lawyer if Charged in Virginia
Although the cards may seem stacked against you in DUI cases, your best defense is to hire an experienced DUI lawyer to fight for you. Here are 10 reasons to retain a DUI lawyer if charged in Virginia
Reason #1While there are no guarantees that an experienced DUI lawyer will win your case, at the very least, they should be able to negotiate some of the non-mandatory penalties upon a conviction. If over the age of 21 and found guilty of DUI, penalties for a first time offender can include: a minimum five (5) day jail term for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) between 0.15% and 0.20% or a minimum ten (10) day jail term for BAC 0.20% and above, with a maximum term one (1) year jail term as a class 1 criminal misdemeanor; a minimum fine of $250 up to $2,500; a one (1) year license suspension; a minimum six (6) month installation of an Ignition Interlock Device [plus the cost to install the device and monthly charges for the computer chip to be read and the results sent to Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP)]; the requirement to complete the VASAP (plus the cost to attend such program); six (6) demerit points assessed by the VA DMV against your driving record; dramatic insurance rate increases; and a criminal record. Penalties for subsequent DUI convictions increase in severity for each future conviction.
Reason #2Even with Miranda rights in place to protect you from incriminating yourself after arrest, the Virginia implied consent laws make it a crime to avoid self-incrimination by refusing blood alcohol testing. While this may seem unfair, you agree to submit to these tests by virtue of driving on Virginia roadways, and refusal to submit to testing amounts to a crime that is separate and distinct from any DUI charge that may follow.
Reason #3A DUI conviction is on your record for life.
Reason #4An experienced DUI lawyer provides you with significantly better odds of a positive outcome than if you were to represent yourself. Simply pleading guilty to quickly resolve your case removes your eligibility to get your record expunged. You must be found not guilty or have the charges withdrawn by Commonwealth (nolle prosequi) to be able to submit a petition for an expungement.
Reason #5A DUI conviction can have negative impacts on your life. Outside of the judicial penalties, a DUI conviction may result in: limited job opportunities or loss of employment, difficulties renting an apartment, increased car insurance, professional sanctions, and even the potential inadmissibility to travel internationally.
Reason #6An experienced DUI lawyer can build arguments based on human errors. For example, detailed instructions are provided to law enforcement officials tasked with operating breath test equipment. According to these instructions, officials must observe the subject for at least 20 minutes before conducting a test of at least two samples. Although the equipment provides step-by-step instructions, any number of errors can occur to render test results inaccurate.
Reason #7Hiring a DUI lawyer will give you access to the pool of technical knowledge useful in refuting breath test results. For example, medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can increase alcohol content in the breath without accurately reflecting the alcohol content in the blood and portable testing equipment does not have the same accuracy levels as the tabletop devices used for testing at police stations.
Reason #8Interested in visiting our neighbors to the North with a DUI conviction? According to the Government of Canada, while the immigration officer will decide if you can enter the country when you arrive at a port of entry, "if you have been convicted of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, you will probably be found criminally inadmissible to Canada" without an approved permit issued by the Government, that can come with a $200 processing fee. Other countries may have similar admissibility criteria and policies.
Reason #9Even if you have confidence of your own innocence, it takes an experienced and respected attorney to successfully negotiate with Commonwealth's attorneys. Your best line of defense is to contact a local lawyer who is familiar with the judges and prosecutors of that area, as different judges can have varying approaches, especially in areas of the law that allow discretion.
Reason #10While the thought of legal bills may stress you out and seem excessively high, there is no substitute for knowing the law. What are you paying for? To start, a minimum of three years of formal legal education (JD or equivalent), possible internships, successfully pass the state bar, hold varying years of practice and expertise. If the low end of a JD costs $150,000 and years of experience and expertise are priceless, solely on economics, aren't you getting your money's worth to protect your future?
Additional resources provided by the author
- Implied consent to post-arrest testing on Virginia road ways
- Refusal of tests, corresponding penalties and procedures
- Penalties for DUI/DWI convictions listed in the Virginia Code for s. 18.2-266.1
- Penalties for DUI/DWI convictions listed in the Virginia Code for s. 18.2-270
- The expungement of police and court records in Virginia
- Obtaining a governor’s pardon in Virginia
- Canadian admissibility criteria