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Understanding Virginia's DUI policies

Under Virginia state law, motorists who are arrested for driving under the influence must submit to a Breathalyzer test at the police station.
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    February 08, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- If you have ever been stopped on suspicion of drunk driving in Virginia, you are merely one of thousands who are pulled over each year. With some of the strictest DUI policies in the country, being accused of driving under the influence of alcohol in Virginia is no walk in the park. Understanding the various laws and policies that are enforced in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk and surrounding areas, and teaming up with an experienced criminal law attorney will help to guide you through the DUI process while protecting your rights. In addition to mandatory fines, completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) and possible jail time, there are several other consequences of DUI charge.

Refusing a Breathalyzer test

Under Virginia state law, motorists who are arrested for driving under the influence must submit to a Breathalyzer test at the police station. This is not to be confused with the preliminary breath test on the side of the road. There is no legal obligation to submit to a preliminary breath test, and it should be declined when requested, as it only helps the police officer build his or her probable cause to arrest you. Likewise, it is not legally required in Virginia that you submit to field sobriety tests such as the walk and turn test, the one legged stand test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, or the alphabet test. Again, these only help the police officer build his or her probable cause to arrest you. The law allows you to decline all field sobriety tests including the preliminary breath test. If asked to submit to them, politely and firmly decline to take them.

However, if you are arrested, you must submit to the Breathalyzer test at the police station. If you have never been arrested for DUI before, willfully refusing to do so may result in the suspension of your driver's license for one year. If you have previous DUI convictions, the refusal charge is considered a criminal charge and your license could be suspended for up to three years and the charge is considered either a Class One or Class Two misdemeanor and can result in jail time. Those who register for a driver's license in Virginia agree to submit to a Breathalyzer test as a condition of the privilege to operate a motor vehicle in Virginia.

Mandatory ignition interlock devices

First-time DUI offenders are now required to use an ignition interlock device for at least six months under Virginia's strict DUI policy. The interlock device is wired directly into the vehicle's ignition system and requires a sample of the driver's breath to start the car. The car will start only if the alcohol content of the breath sample is at 0.02 percent or less. While many states mandate the installation of an ignition device for offenders with multiple DUI convictions, only twenty states have policies requiring the device be used for first-time offenders as well.

License suspension

Upon arrest for a first offense charge of driving under the influence, your license is administratively suspended for seven days. After the seventh day, you may drive until you are found guilty in court. At that juncture, your privilege to operate a motor vehicle in Virginia is suspended for twelve months. Upon arrest for a second offense, your privilege is administratively suspended until you get to court, and if convicted of DUI, it is further suspended for three years. If convicted, you may be eligible for restricted privileges for work, school, child care, medical, ASAP, and religious purposes after certain waiting periods. A third offense DUI is considered a felony in Virginia, and your privilege is revoked indefinitely. You may petition for reinstatement after three years, provided you have:
- Paid all fines and jail fees.
- Filed your financial responsibility information form, which alerts the car insurance company of your DUI offense.
- Enrolled in and successfully completed your Alcohol Safety Action Program.
- Petitioned the circuit court for reinstatement.

Some DUI offenders may be required to re-apply for their driver's license, including retaking the driving, vision and written tests.

Call a criminal defense lawyer

Those who have been accused of driving under the influence of alcohol should call an experienced attorney who is familiar with Virginia state laws. Teaming up with a reputable attorney may help to better the outcome of your case. While a DUI charge can be devastating and stressful, an attorney can help make the process easier.

Article provided by Timothy J. Quick, Attorney at Law
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