There has been a number of instances where that one drink led to a DUI or DWI charge just because of getting behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol. This avoidable situation could have prevented serious consequences of a DUI/DWI charge. When people drink and drive, they do not have an idea of the gravity of their offense until they are faced with the punishment. It can be from the pretty obvious penalties such as jail time and loss of driving privileges to the not so obvious ramifications that you need to deal with when convicted of DUI.
The following is a rundown of the most common consequences you need to face because of a DUI conviction. However, it is best to consult an experienced DUI defense attorney in Virginia so that you may fully comprehend what you may be dealing with and if there is a chance to lessen the penalties or avoid them altogether.
1) Incarceration and Fines
Penalties for a DUI conviction in Virginia depends on your circumstances. A first offense DUI can land you in jail for 12 months and set you back on fines amounting from $250 to $2,500. But, if you are convicted of involuntary manslaughter or maiming as a result of driving under the influence, you can get up to five years of prison time plus fines of at least $1,000. However, the criminal court may sentence you to additional jail time and higher fines if there are other criminal offenses charged against you. Following are some examples of aggravated circumstances:
- DUI-related assault with a motor vehicle that results in bodily injury to others – an extra year behind bars and an additional $2,500 fine – per injured victim.
- Involuntary manslaughter – your drunk driving resulted in the fatalities – additional five years and another fine of at least $1,000.
- Second-degree vehicular homicide – five to 40 years prison time plus impoundment of your vehicle if you’re found guilty of any felony DUI repeat offenses.
There are times when the court may grant you probation instead of the jail sentence. This enables you to continue working and supporting yourself and any of your dependents. However, this does not exempt you from your obligations in paying fines or fees ordered by the court. During probation, there are rules and regulations you must adhere to such as regular meetings with a probation officer or take a sobriety test. You may also be required to wear an alcohol monitoring device or to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. These devices regularly transmit data to your probation officer who may conduct surprise alcohol test or summon you in court or probation officer. Usually, you will be required to cover the costs of installing these devices, unless you have a good DUI lawyer who may argue for a waiver on the grounds of your limited income.
3) Suspended License or Driver’s License Revocation
A DUI conviction may result in loss of driving privileges, whether temporarily – ranging from a few weeks to several months – or permanently, depending on the circumstances of your conviction. Losing your driver’s license may put your job at risk. It is important to get a good defense lawyer to ensure that you get a more favorable outcome.
4) Rehabilitation Programs
The court may require you to undergo an addiction treatment program as part of your sentence or probation. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor before your trial for a lesser charge and based upon your willingness to undergo treatment. Costs of treatment programs vary depending on the type of treatment required and the facility where you will avail of this program. Treatment facilities charge an arm and a leg for their rehabilitation programs. Some are flexible enough to allow payment schemes based on your income and ability to pay.
5) Completion of the VASAP or the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program
Under the Commonwealth of Virginia laws, all individuals convicted of a DWI are required to complete the program. You will undergo an initial evaluation where a counselor will be assigned to you. The counselor will discuss your prior record, your drinking behavior and a number of other factors that affect your risk status. Once done, a special treatment, tailor-fitted to you, will be created by your counselor. You are required to adhere to all program assignments and maintain communication with your counselor. Failure to comply with any terms of the program can result in the imposition of some – or all – of your suspended jail time.
6) Render Community Service
You may be required to render community service as a condition of your DUI probation and/or part of your plea bargain. Community services refer to work that is performed without pay for a nonprofit or civic organization. If you are a first-offender, you may be given the option to choose from a list of court-approved organizations for your community service. Examples of such nonprofit or civic organizations are the Salvation Army, Red Cross, YMCA, a local humane society, homeless shelter, or any other court-approved organization. If you are an offender who is also a skilled professional — whether you are a doctor, plumbers, teacher, electrician, or mechanic — you may serve in local social service organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, medical missions or free clinics, or some other nonprofit activity. Needless to say, the organization must be approved by the court.
7) Effect on Credit Rating
A DUI conviction can lower your credit rating and therefore gravely affect your ability to apply for loans because financial lending organizations may look at this as an indication that you are a high-risk investment. An unfavorable credit rating can yield unfavorable results such as higher interest rates for loans, including a home loan or car loan, or worse, your loan application may be disapproved. A lower credit rating may also make you ineligible for a rental agreement you have now become an undesirable risk for landlords and property managers.
8) Loss of Company Car Privileges
Losing the company car can be a direct consequence of your DUI charge. This could mean the potential loss of the financial savings represented by not having to own and maintain a vehicle. You also potentially lose the savings of not having to ensure that car as well. And if you drive a company leased a vehicle; virtually all reputable leasing or rental agencies prohibit customers with a DUI to drive any of their vehicles.
9) Risk to Future Employment
A criminal conviction is seen as grounds for immediate termination for most reputable companies. If you are convicted of crimes such as drunk driving, you risk losing your job. If you are an investment broker, you risk losing your business license. A DUI conviction is a stigma that will hound you for many years. Many, if not all job applications will ask you if you have been convicted of a crime and you have no choice but to answer “yes”. The same rule applies if you are applying for a professional license. You will need to mark that box with “yes” once convicted of DUI. As a consequence, issuers of such licenses can withhold or delay licensure or, in cases of serious felony DUI convictions, may initiate revocation proceedings – such as a State Bar or Medical Board.
10) Installation of Ignition Interlock Systems
Virginia State law requires installation of ignition interlock systems, which are devices that connect a motor vehicle ignition system to an analyzer that measures a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). It is similar to a breathalyzer test used by arresting law enforcement officers. The purpose of these devices is to prevent a motor vehicle ignition from starting if a driver’s BAC level exceeds .02 percent. They are also equipped with the ability to perform a rolling test and electronically log the driver’s BAC during ignition, attempted ignition, and rolling tests. These systems are primarily designed for habitual drunk drivers or DUI offenders. These systems can be costly because, aside from the installation fee, there is also a monthly maintenance fee.
11) Higher Car Insurance Premiums and High-Risk Insurance
Once you are convicted of DUI, you may expect your auto insurance rates to shoot up. Reinstatement of your insurance after losing your driving privileges with your car remaining uninsured six months or more can result to higher premiums. Consequently, your insurance carrier might decide to drop your coverage. It is even costlier if you are convicted of felony DUI charges. You may be required to get an assigned-risk (SR-22) insurance policy, which is double – even triple – your former rates.
As for your life insurance premiums, don’t be surprised if your insurance provider raises your rates or even deny you coverage because a DUI conviction will make you an “undesirable” client. You may run the risk of ineligibility for low-cost “preferred risk” premiums. Your health insurance policy rates may also increase if you are a DUI offender. Worse comes to worst, you could also face cancellation of your health insurance.
12) Travel Restrictions
Getting a DUI will make your life harder in multiple ways, but we rarely consider the impact it can have on your ability to travel abroad. Sure, the potential for injury to you and others, astronomical fines, marks on your record, and possible jail time should be big enough to deter you from drinking and driving, but to top it off, some countries may bar you from entering their borders for as many as 10 years. The last thing you want is to book your dream vacation, arrive at the country’s borders, and be turned away because of your DUI. If you have a DUI on your record and you’re planning a trip to the following countries, you may be denied entry or be required to provide special documentation:
- United Arab Emirates
- South Africa
13) Immigration Setbacks
If you are a legal alien awaiting your green card, you can expect your pending citizenship application to be delayed or even rejected because of a DUI conviction. It is harsher if you are convicted of a criminal offense such as felony DUI charge, such as vehicular manslaughter, because you could face deportation. Even your work and travel visas can be gravely affected. If you are an illegal immigrant with a DUI conviction, local authorities may turn you over to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) where you will be detained pending the completion of removal proceedings.
If you are facing DUI charges, do not put matters in your own hands. It is best to seek legal counsel from an experienced DUI attorney who can come up with several defense strategies that can be used to fight DUI charges. At Fisher Legal, we review all factors pertaining to a case to determine the defense with the highest chance of success. Contact us for a free initial consultation to review your case details so we can discover your options.