Have You Been Drinking?
Be honest. Have you ever gotten behind the wheel and wondered if it was okay? Have you had a couple of drinks at a party and wondered what your blood alcohol content might be? Have you ever been nervous about the upcoming roadside sobriety checkpoint because you aren’t quite sure how it will go?
Merriam-Webster defines driving under the influence (DUI) as “the act or crime of driving while affected by alcohol or drugs.” DUI’s come at a high cost. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol-impaired car crashes cost more than $37 billion per year. It is a serious problem. It can be avoided, but if you are arrested for driving under the influence, you need to know your rights and your options.
The SFST Battery:
In Virginia, the presumed legal blood alcohol content limit is 0.08%. If you are pulled over and the officer believes that alcohol is impairing your ability to control your vehicle, he/she will probably ask to administer the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) battery to determine if there is "probable cause" to arrest you for DUI. The battery consists of many tests which have been approved by the NHTSA. Here are three:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – this is the test that requires you to follow an object with your eyes from side to side.
- 9-Step Walk and Turn – this is the test that requires you to walk in a straight line away from and then back toward the officer.
- One-Leg Stand – this is exactly what it sounds like.
The officer will pay attention to your movements and see if he/she has probable cause to make an arrest. One wrong move or stumble, and you may have just given the officer probable cause.
Breath Test Refusal:
If the officer asks you to take a breath test on the side of the road, prior to your arrest, you can refuse. This is because he/she will use the results of the test as probable cause to make an arrest. However, once/if you are arrested for DUI and are transported to the Magistrate's Office, you cannot refuse to take the breath test. A breath test refusal will result in revocation of your driver’s license for one year, without the possibility of a restricted license.
In Virginia, you cannot request a blood test as an alternative to a breath test.
A first offense is categorized as a Class 1 Misdemeanor and carries steep penalties: a mandatory minimum $250 fine and driver’s license revocation for one year. The penalties for additional offenses or for an elevated (0.15% or higher) BAC increase from there: higher fines, longer span of time without a driver’s license, misdemeanor or felony, and mandatory jail terms. The Department of Motor Vehicles has published a comprehensive list of possible outcomes, based on the severity of the BAC, the number of prior offenses, and whether or not there were minors in the vehicle with you.
In all cases, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle(s). An ignition interlock device is essentially a breathalyzer for your vehicle. The vehicle will not start until you demonstrate to the device that your blood alcohol content is below the legal limit.
Fighting a DUI:
Alcohol-related crashes, according to the NHTSA, result in a death every 51 minutes. No one wants to contribute to that statistic. That is why the Virginia General Assembly comes down so strongly on drunk drivers. A DUI charge is always serious.
If you have been charged with DUI, call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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