Virginia issues harsh punishments on drivers convicted of DUI. A first time DUI offense in Virginia could result in a court fine up to $2,500 and a license revocation of one year. Plus, you will be on probation for one year. A second DUI offense in Virginia could result in a license suspension for three years and another substantial court fine. However, the punishment becomes even worse in some circumstances when there is a sentence enhancement.
A sentence enhancement increases the amount of punishment for a DUI conviction. There are certain factors that lead to sentence enhancements including:
• A child was in the vehicle at the time of suspected DUI
• There was a past offense within 5 to 10 years
• Blood alcohol content (BAC) was higher than .15 percent, almost twice the legal limit
• Property was damaged
• Someone was injured
• The driver was under the age of 21
• A chemical test was refused
Any of these situations could result in a harsher punishment. Virginia courts hear so many cases each year that the prosecution often puts pressure on the defendants to quickly admit to guilt. If you have been accused of drunk driving in Virginia, you do not have to promptly admit to being guilty, as there are many DUI defenses available. You should contact an experienced Virginia DUI attorney immediately following a DUI arrest for expert legal advice.
You can’t always rely on the results from a breath test to prove DUI. There are too many factors that affect the readings given from breathalyzers in Virginia. Prosecutors often use BAC readings as their main argument against a DUI defendant, but an experienced Virginia DUI attorney knows when these tests are inaccurate.
Breath testing equipment is frequently used when a police officer pulls over a suspect for DUI. These devices are used to measure the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the driver, by utilizing a ratio to convert the alcohol in the breath to alcohol in the blood. The first potential problem with breathalyzers is that it is automatically assumes that this ratio will be the same from person to person.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Virginia and your BAC was above the legal limit, you need to have an expert review your case. The various factors that can skew the results of breath tests are endless. Radio frequency from a police officer’s radio or a nearby airport can affect your breath test results. Mouth alcohol can throw off the reading, especially if you wear dentures. Other chemicals are often mistaken for ethanol, which is found in alcoholic drinks. Even certain medical conditions, such as diabetes can give false results from breathalyzers.
Don’t let your Virginia DUI conviction be based on the results from a breath test, without first looking into other possible causes that could have altered your BAC reading. Talk with an experienced DUI attorney today by calling 888-DUI-ANSWER.
Various states, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska and Washington, have already enacted laws requiring first time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock systems into their vehicles. These devices are similar to breathalyzers and are installed into the vehicle’s dashboard. The engine will not start until the driver blows into the device and has a low reading (according to the programmed blood alcohol concentration, BAC).
Virginia has proposed a similar law that would require drivers who are convicted for a first time DUI offense to install an ignition interlock in Virginia, even if there was a low BAC at the time of arrest. This proposed law would revise the state’s existing law that requires ignition interlocks for repeat DUI offenders and for those who were arrested with a high BAC in Virginia.
This proposed law, and similar proposed laws in other states, has been a topic of many intense debates, which is discussed in the article, “Ignition Interlocks for First Time Offenders is a Heated Topic.” The critics of this law feel that the requirement of an ignition interlock for a first time DUI offender is unfair and basically gives the same punishment to that driver as someone who has multiple DUI offenses. Opponents to the law believe that ignition interlocks do not solve the problem of drunk driving. A former MADD president was even quoted as saying that the drunk driving problem has been reduced to “a hard core of alcoholics who do not respond to public appeal.”
Advocates of the law have cited a 2008 study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which showed that interlock devices in New Mexico reduced the number of repeat DUI offenses by about two-thirds in the state. However, critics believe that this decline could also be contributed to other factors, such as education programs.
If laws, such as the one being proposed in Virginia, are passed, many feel that judges will not have the ability to distinguish between drivers who have had a few drinks and barely go over the legal limit and those who go way over.
Based on a proposed bill, if you have been convicted of DUI in Virginia, you would be required to install an ignition interlock even if your BAC was below 0.15 percent. The bill, known as House Bill 2041, would revise the current state law that requires only repeat DUI offenders and drivers with a BAC above 0.15 percent to install these devices. This bill is being discussed for the second year in a row and many Virginia legislators are concerned. If it passes, Virginia would join eight other states that have similar laws.
An ignition interlock system is a small handheld device that attaches to the dashboard. Before a driver can start the car, he or she has to blow into the device, which will measure BAC. The driver is also required to blow into the device at designated times while driving. The engine will only start if the driver’s BAC is lower than .02 percent.
According to a member of the House Courts of Justice committee, the cost of obtaining and installing the ignition interlock system is estimated at $455.
Del. Sal Iaquinto R-84 is the sponsor of the bill and believes that if passed, it will deter repeat DUI offenses. He said that there is a 64 percent decline in DUI recidivism after the ignition interlock system is installed.
Critics of the bill are concerned that it could negatively impact people who need to drive for their jobs and people with multiple vehicles. Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-68 said that since so many people rely on company vehicles for their jobs, the proposed bill could have “desperate impact on a large number of people.”
If the bill is passed, it will go into effect January 1, 2010.