Frequently Asked Questions About DUI Charges In Virginia

An arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) is frightening because of the potential consequences. Below are some of the common questions clients have about DUI.

Stephen P. Pfeiffer is recognized as one of the top DUI lawyers in Virginia Beach because of his extensive knowledge and track record in DUI defense cases. Attorney Pfeiffer is committed to his clients’ well-being and handles each case from beginning to end, going to trial when that is in a client’s best interests. Read the following FAQ or contact the firm today for answers to your specific DUI questions.

Do I have to perform field sobriety tests?

You have absolutely no obligation to perform these tests. There are no legal consequences for you to politely refuse from performing these tests. In fact, often times there are several environmental and physical health reasons to politely refuse. The officer should ask you at some point in their questioning if you have any medical problems or conditions. If you have leg, back, knee or other health problems such as vertigo, asthma or GERD and you choose to speak with the officer, you should detail these problems to the officer.

What are my rights after I’ve been arrested for DUI?

Once you are taken into custody, you are required by law to submit to a breath or blood test to measure your blood alcohol content. There are consequences for refusing the test. But you always have the right – even before you are formally charged – to refuse to answer questions. Once you are placed under arrest, you have the right to ask for an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning. You have the right to challenge the criminal DUI charges. Your right to speak to an attorney does not apply to your decision whether to blow into the breath testing device after you have been arrested.

What happens if I refuse the breathalyzer test?

Under Virginia’s implied consent law, unreasonably refusing the breath or blood test results in automatic suspension of your driver’s license for one year, with no eligibility for restricted driving. Refusal can also be used as evidence of guilt if you are charged with DUI in certain circumstances. Refusing to blow in the handheld portable breathalyzer used on the side of the road is not the same as refusing to blow in the Intox EC/IR II breath testing device. You can refuse the handheld portable breathalyzer without legal consequences. If you refused the test, contact a lawyer immediately.

Are field sobriety tests used in court?

Law enforcement uses roadside sobriety tests to decide whether to make an arrest. Some field sobriety tests (such as the walk and turn) are recognized by Virginia courts as evidence of intoxication. Other tests (such as reciting the alphabet backward) are often not admissible in court. An experienced DUI lawyer will know how to challenge such evidence, including the dashcam video of roadside tests.

What are the penalties for DUI in Virginia?

The criminal penalties depend on the circumstances. A first-time DUI is punishable by a fine of at least $250 and license suspension for one year. But if your blood alcohol content (BAC) was .15 to .20, there is also mandatory jail time of at least five days. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) was greater than .20, there is also mandatory jail time of at least 10 days. A second DUI within 10 years carries mandatory jail of at least 10 days plus license revocation for three years. A third DUI is a felony and carries minimum jail time of 90 days if within 10 years of the last conviction or 180 days if within five years of the last conviction plus indefinite license revocation.

Are there different rules for underage DUI?

Under Virginia’s Zero Tolerance law, drivers under the age of 21 who have any alcohol in their system (.02 BAC) are subject to a mandatory fine of $500 and administrative license suspension for one year. Sometimes, the court will allow the defendant to perform 50 hours of community service instead of the fine. Drivers under 21 whose BAC is .08 or higher are subject to the same DUI penalties as anyone over 21.

Will I lose my license?

Upon arrest for DUI, your license is automatically suspended for at least seven days. If you are later convicted of DUI, your license will be suspended for at least one year on a first offense, three years on a second offense and indefinitely for a third offense. The court can grant restricted driving privileges to drive to work, school, child care, etc. You will likely have to install an ignition interlock on your vehicle before you will be allowed to drive. There are some other exceptions that will allow you to potentially operate an employer’s vehicle without an interlock that can be explored with your attorney.

How can an attorney help me if I am arrested for DUI?

An attorney can advise you before you give any statements to the police. An attorney can explain the potential penalties and help you decide whether to pursue a plea deal or go to trial. An experienced DUI lawyer knows how to challenge the government’s case. Did the officer have reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop? Did the officer have probable cause for an arrest? Was the BAC test properly conducted? A lawyer who can identify holes in the prosecutor’s case and may be able to secure a dismissal of charges, reduced charges, lesser penalties or acquittal at trial. An attorney should be very familiar with the local court to better understand the personalities of the prosecutor, officer and judge and how to best tailor your defense to those personalities to maximize your chance for a good result.

What if I am not a resident of Virginia?

If you were arrested for DUI while visiting Virginia Beach, you are subject to local penalties such as fines, jail time or probation. You must show up for all court hearings unless the local court allows an attorney to stand in on your behalf. So often times getting an attorney retained as soon as possible will negate an extra trip back to Virginia Beach for your arraignment or first appearance. Nearly all states adhere to the interstate Driver’s License Compact, meaning your home state will likely suspend your driver’s license as well, and a conviction in Virginia would count as a DUI conviction in your state.

Your Go-To Attorney For DUI Defense

DUI law is complex and fact-specific. Stephen P. Pfeiffer’s 15 years of experience and zealous representation gives you the edge you need to beat a DUI or limit the penalties. He is a member of the National College of DUI Defense Attorneys and has been recognized statewide and nationally for his contributions and success in drunk driving defense.

If you have been charged with DUI, Stephen P. Pfeiffer is ready to fight for you. Call the firm in Virginia Beach at 757-901-0808 or send an email to get started today.