From limiting your professional prospects to harming your financial stability and beyond, receiving a conviction for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) can significantly impact your life,
If you're dealing with a DUI case, you may wonder if there's a way to reduce the severity of the charge. Well, read on, because today we're giving you a run-down of what you can expect from being charged with a DUI in Virginia, and how it may be possible to reduce those charges.
Understanding DUI Charges in Virginia
It's important to know that, unlike some states, Virginia uses implied consent statutes. Under implied consent laws, drivers must consent to a blood or breath test if an officer requests one. Refusing a test can result in a one-year license suspension.
To qualify for a DUI, the driver must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% if over the age of 21, 0.02% if under the age of 21, or 0.04% if they're operating a commercial vehicle.
A first-time DUI in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and carries the following penalties:
- A $250-2,500 fine;
- One-year license suspension, and;
- A 5-30-day jail sentence if the driver had a BAC of 0.15% or higher.
Individuals who receive a license suspension after being convicted of a DUI may be able to obtain a restricted driver's license. A restricted license allows the owner to travel to essential locations, like work or school, but prohibits them from using their vehicle excessively. The court may require DUI offenders to engage in certain activities to qualify for a restricted license, such as installing an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle.
Additionally, individuals convicted of a DUI in Virginia must complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP), which can entail up to 20 hours of classes. The program is designed to evaluate an individual's dependence on alcohol or other illegal substances and help them understand how to manage substance abuse before they regain access to their driving privileges.
If DUI offenders commit multiple offenses, especially within a five or ten-year period, DUI penalties increase exponentially with each offense.
A second DUI offense in Virginia carries the following penalties:
- A minimum $500 fine;
- Driver's license revocation for up to three years, and;
- A jail sentence of up to one year.
If the second offense occurs within ten years of the first offense, the offender receives a mandatory 10-day jail sentence. If the offense occurs within five years, the offender receives a minimum 20-day jail sentence.
A third DUI offense carries the following penalties:
- A minimum $1,000 fine;
- Indefinite driver's license revocation, and;
- Prosecution as a Class 6 felony.
If the third offense occurs within ten years of the second offense, the offender receives a mandatory 90-day jail term and must permanently forfeit their vehicle. If the third offense occurs within five years, the offender must serve a six-year jail term.
Various factors can also heighten the severity of DUI penalties, depending on how the driver behaved in the vehicle. If the driver caused significant property damage, drove under the influence with a minor in the car, or killed or injured another person while DUI, the penalties can increase exponentially.
As you can tell, Virginia takes drunk driving seriously, and heavily penalizes DUI offenders. If you or a loved one are facing a first-time DUI charge, you may be wondering, "is there some way I can reduce the severity of these charges?"
Reducing DUI Charges in Virginia
If the offender is charged with a second or third DUI offense, it will be difficult to reduce the severity of that charge. However, it may be possible for first-time DUI offenders to get their DUI charge reduced to a "reckless driving" charge.
Most commonly, DUI offenders reduce the severity of their charges through plea bargaining. In a plea bargain, the offender pleads guilty or "no content" in exchange for reduced penalties. First-time DUI offenders may be able to get a DUI charge reduced to a reckless driving charge (frequently called a 'wet reckless') by working with the prosecution.
Whether an offender can reduce their DUI charge to a wet reckless often largely depends on the specific circumstances of their DUI charge. First-time offenders will have an easier time receiving a reduced charge if they:
- Had a low BAC at the time of their arrest or when they were pulled over,
- Did not take any reckless actions while committing DUI,
- Did not damage property while committing the DUI,
- Did not harm or kill anyone while committing the DUI,
- Show remorse for their actions and are willing to actively cooperate with law enforcement, state officials, and prosecution to avoid committing a DUI in the future. This may involve agreeing to install an IID in their vehicle, attending alcohol and substance classes, etc.
If the offender's defense makes a good enough case to the court and prosecution, and all parties agree that reducing the DUI charge to a less severe charge is in the best interests of everyone involved, the offender may receive a reckless driving charge instead of a DUI.
What Are the Benefits of Reducing a DUI Charge?
Reducing a DUI charge to a reckless driving charge may result in lesser penalties, like a lower fine or a reduced license suspension.
However, the other benefit of receiving a reduced charge is how it reflects on your criminal record later down the line. Having a DUI charge on your criminal record can affect your professional prospects and other areas of your life, making it harder to pass background checks for authority figures like employers and landlords. Reducing a DUI charge can help you succeed in all your endeavors.
At the Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we can help you navigate your DUI case and work with you towards a more favorable outcome.