DUI offenses are serious. Of course, you already knew that. You’ve spent your life inundated with “don’t drink and drive” PSAs, and you probably had the point repeated throughout your school years. The crime has intense legal consequences, but it can also affect other aspects of your life.
In this article, we will explore the effects of a DUI charge, both legal and personal.
The punishments for a DUI charge depend on how often you’ve been accused.
- First Offense:
Up to one year in jail; fines between $250 and $2,500; one-year license suspension; IID (ignition interlock device) installed for at least six months with the possibility of obtaining a restricted license
- Second Offense:
Ten days to one year in jail; fines between $500 and $2,500; three-year license suspension; IID installed for at least six months
- Third Offense:
90 days to five years in jail; fines between $1,000 and $2,500; indefinite license suspension; IID installed for at least six months if you ever get your privilege to drive reinstated.
Many of these penalties are mandatory. Even a merciful court cannot choose alternative punishments, such as community service or mandatory rehabilitation.
Other factors can affect a DUI penalty. For example, some charges are specific to a “high” BAC (blood alcohol level, 0.15% or more). These crimes carry a mandatory jail sentence. Also, drunk driving can be elevated to a felony if someone is hurt. When someone was killed, the crime can be manslaughter.
The “implied consent” law is hotly debated. If someone is arrested for a DUI on a “public highway,” which they clearly didn’t want to happen, the law then states that by virtue of having driven on the public roads, they consent to a BAC test. If they refuse such testing, they are breaking the law.
The logic of this law is circular, but it still has an impact. If you refuse testing after a DUI arrest, you could face a one-year license suspension. For subsequent offenses, the punishments ratchet up.
DUIs look bad on a background check. When potential employers investigate your past, they often have no context for crimes on your record. They simply see a misdemeanor (or felony) DUI charge. Most of the time, they won’t ask for your side of the story. They’ll simply see whatever comes up in their search and make assumptions about your character.
Some companies demand that you report any DUI charges you receive while employed with them. Regardless of how well you’ve performed, a new DUI charge could lead to sudden termination.
Furthermore, the legal penalties you’re already suffering can affect your job. If your driving rights are suspended, you may be unable to get to work. Your employer isn’t likely to accommodate for your legal woes, and you could lose your job.
Effect on Your Reputation
All criminal charges look bad in black-and-white. It’s easy to simply label someone by their criminal status. Sometimes the words, “they were found guilty of a misdemeanor” are all someone needs to make a judgement.
Our culture has been particularly vigilant about demonizing DUIs. From well-publicized organizations to targeted school campaigns, the message is clear: drunk driving is bad. If you are falsely accused, you carry the scarlet letter of a DUI on your person for a long time. Dating and other social interactions can be particularly embarrassing if you cannot drive or must use an IID. People will misjudge you, and you may get dirty looks for having a glass of wine with dinner.
You don’t have to take a DUI charge lying down. You have the right to a defense, and evidence can be disputed. Here are some DUI defenses you can discuss with your attorney.
The Stop Was Unfair
You should question why you were stopped in the first place. There are, for instance, certain offenses for which an officer cannot stop a car. These are called “secondary offenses.” In fact, many primary offenses have been downgraded to secondary in Virginia. If you, for instance, were stopped for a broken taillight, that’s an illegal stop.
The Police Coerced Your Confession
In any police interaction, you have the right to remain silent. However, cops can coerce you into talking before making an arrest. They ask sly questions like, “how much have you had to drink tonight?” If you tell them you’ve had a drink, they can use that confession to justify their charge.
At the station, after the arrest, they can use your fear and confusion against you as well. Although you’ve been informed of your right to remain silent, police could still coerce a confession out of you. They can be so tricky that you confess without realizing it, even if you are stone sober.
Your attorney should go over every detail of your arrest. If they find ways you’ve been tricked into a confession, they can use that to help your defense.
The Field Sobriety Test Was Unfair
Any minor slip-up can cause you to fail a field sobriety test. Some people have naturally poor balance which makes walking a straight line difficult. A person’s clothing could also restrict their movement. Imagine a woman in a tight bridesmaid dress and heels. When she slips during the test, cops take notice. When the cops want an arrest, they can find it by using simple mistakes. If your field your sobriety test was unfair, inform your attorney.
The Blood Test Was Inaccurate
Courts generally accept BAC results as hard evidence. If testing says there was an illegal amount of alcohol in your system, that’s hard to refute. What matters, however, is the testing itself. Only certain professionals may perform a blood draw pursuant to implied consent. If an overworked hospital uses an unauthorized person, that evidence can be thrown out. Furthermore, police are sometimes guilty of improperly storing blood evidence. If not stored or transported correctly, blood results can be tainted.
If you’ve been accused of drunk driving, contact our office for a free consultation. We may be able to take you on as a client and build your defense. Call us today at (540) 827-4446. You can also reach us online.