DUI Lawyers Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads
If you find yourself in a situation in which you’ve been charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI), it’s important that you know your rights, as well as what might happen during a DUI investigation. When you’re arrested for DUI (sometimes also referred to as DWI), there are certain ways to challenge the stop, the arrest, and the criminal charge. As experienced DUI Attorneys, we can help.
Winning Your DUI Case, Keeping Your Record Clear
Contrary to what many people think, you can win a DUI case and keep a clean criminal record. The government has several things they must prove, and police must strictly follow over 40 procedural steps to prove you guilty of a DUI. If they have failed to follow the law precisely during the course of your stop and arrest, and you have a DUI Defense Attorney who knows how to present that evidence to the Court, then DUI cases are winnable.
A police officer must have a valid reason for initially stopping a vehicle, like observing a person commit a traffic infraction or another crime. To begin a DUI investigation, the officer then likely will observe certain characteristics about the person, such as the odor of alcohol, slurred speech, and the like. If the officer suspects that the person has been drinking, he will ask the person to exit their vehicle and perform certain sobriety tests. If the person fails the sobriety tests, the officer then may ask the person to take a portable breath test that gives the officer a preliminary idea of the person’s blood alcohol content. The results of the portable breath test are not admissible in court. However, you should decline to take the portable breath test. The officer will use the results to determine whether he has enough probable cause to arrest you. So in a sense, taking the portable test can hurt you, but cannot help you at that point.
Next, the person may be taken to the police station to perform an official breathalyzer, or “Intoxilyzer” test. The “Intoxilyzer” machine produces a Certificate of Analysis indicating the person’s blood alcohol content. That Certificate then becomes an element of the prosecutor’s case, as long as the prosecutor has met all of the many statutory requirements for admitting the certificate. A qualified Virginia DUI Attorney can make sure those requirements are satisfied, and when they aren’t he can challenge the certificate itself, possibly preventing it from being used against you. By Virginia law, you are required to take this Intoxilyzer breath test at the police station, if they have validly arrested you for DUI. If the arrest was not valid, an experienced lawyer will be able to get the results of this test suppressed — not used in court.
Going to Court On a Virginia DUI
To get a DUI conviction, the prosecutor must prove that a person was operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater. “Operating” a motor vehicle can include just sitting at the wheel with the keys in the ignition and the car in park. But in many cases, “operating” may be more difficult to prove than you think. This is especially true in situations where the officer arrives on the scene of an accident and arrests someone for driving under the influence of alcohol without having actually seen the person driving.
Virginia police officers have been given wide latitude to conduct DUI investigations and administer field sobriety tests. If a police officer suspects that you have been drinking, he can ask you questions about whether you have actually consumed alcohol and require you to perform field sobriety tests – all without reading you your Miranda rights. The officer is allowed to administer the field sobriety tests to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. However, you are not required to answer any questions, to perform the field sobriety tests, or to blow into the portable breathalyzer at the scene. You may sit or stand still and be completely silent. Simply say to the officer: “I won’t answer questions without a lawyer, I don’t consent to any searches, and I don’t consent to the field tests.”
However, keep in mind that because of Virginia’s “Implied Consent Law” you may not refuse to take the breathalyzer test at the police station. If police believe they have probable cause to arrest you, they will take you to the station to perform a breath test. The officer may decide to have blood drawn instead of a breath test, and the exact same rules apply – you must consent to the blood draw after being informed of Virginia’s Implied Consent Law.
Intoxication charges are serious — a first offense has a penalty of up to 12 months in jail in addition to numerous other requirements. If you have been charged, contact us for a free consultation for DUI Defense. As experienced Virginia Beach DUI Attorneys, we serve Virginia Beach and Norfolk, as well as most areas of Hampton Roads.