Being arrested for driving under the influence or DUI, sometimes called driving while intoxicated or DWI, is a serious crime in Virginia. If you have been arrested for a first offense DUI, you may get away with just a misdemeanor charge. However, if you were involved in a vehicular accident causing injuries or fatalities, as the driver, you may face an even more serious felony charge.
Based on the traffic crash facts from the Virginia DMV, almost 4% of all alcohol-related crashes in 2018 involved fatalities, while 62% resulted in injuries, which shows how DUI accidents are not uncommon in the country.
This also serves as a good motivation to consider working with a DUI lawyer, such as those from The Fisher Law Firm, who have years of experience helping DWI/DUI offenders get the best possible outcome for their conviction.
The sections below give a detailed description on what happens during an arrest, a list of aggravating factors that affects what you will be charged with, and some negative effects of driving while under the influence of drug or alcohol.
Police Arrests in Suspected DUI Cases
If a police officer suspects you of DUI, you will be subjected to several tests before being arrested. Anyone with a driving license in Virginia has agreed to BAC testing due to implied consent laws on the books.
However, if you were involved in a car crash, the police officer will need to establish probable cause that you were drunk at the time of the accident. Once a reasonable belief has been established, you may be arrested for drunk driving three hours after the accident, even without a warrant. Some of the signs for a DUI charge include erratic driving, slurred speech, or the smell of alcohol on your breath.
Factors Considered in a Serious DUI/DWI Charge
After an arrest, your charge will depend on the following factors:
- Blood alcohol concentration (BAC)– In Virginia, a DUI charge is given if your blood alcohol level reaches .08 % or higher, or if your driving is impaired by alcohol consumption. The latter is determined through a field sobriety test. In some instances, breath analyzers or other breath alcohol forensics may also be used.
Moreover, zero-tolerance laws in Virginia purports that any driver under 21, whose BAC is between 0.02 to 0.08 percent, may pay fines up to $500, be thrown in prison, or have their driver’s license suspended for 6 months. However, if their BAC is above 0.08 percent, then the same penalties for adults apply.
- Record of past DUI convictions – If you have a history of multiple DUI convictions in the past ten years, then you will face additional penalties on top of your most recent DWI charge. Any citizen who commits more than three DUIs in their lifetime may be convicted of a class 6 felony in Virginia. Having a first offense misdemeanor charge on your record is certainly preferable than the previous history of causing multiple injuries to a vehicle you crashed.
- Serious injuries or fatality in the accident– if the motor vehicle accident proves fatal, you may face a felony DUI charge consisting of involuntary manslaughter or even aggravated manslaughter. Anyone convicted of these crimes shall serve up to 20 years of prison time.
Consequences of a DUI Accident with Injury or Death
Aside from charges of manslaughter or vehicular homicide, all vehicles of reckless drivers will be seized. In addition, voting rights or drunk drivers will be revoked, and their future job opportunities will be limited.
On top of a serious DUI charge, accident victims may file a personal injury claim to seek payment for damages, while relatives of a deceased victim may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against you in civil court.
If it has been your third DUI charge, then you will not be granted bail by the judge and you will stay in prison until the schedule of your court trial.
The best approach to avoiding serious charges from DUI accidents is to not drink and drive. But if you find yourself in a situation where you are facing grave criminal charges, your best plan is to contact a Virginia DUI attorney to represent you in civil court.
If you need legal advice or seek a criminal defense attorney, you may contact us at The Fisher Law Firm for a free consultation.