Skip to Content

Misdemeanor vs. Felony DUI Charges: How They Differ

In Virginia, driving under the influence (DUI) can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, with the latter carrying far more severe consequences. A felony DUI is typically characterized by its heightened seriousness, often due to prior offenses or aggravating circumstances.

Examples of aggravating factors may include:

  • Third DUI offense within ten (10) years
  • DUI resulting in bodily harm
  • BAC level exceeds the statutory limit
  • Committing a DUI with a suspended license
  • Involvement in a fatal accident

The distinction between these two classifications is crucial, as it directly influences the legal process, potential penalties, and the long-term impact on the individual's life.

The penalties of a felony DUI may include:

  • Mandatory minimum sentences of 90 days, six months, or a year in jail
  • Mandatory minimum fine of $1,000
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device
  • License suspension or revocation
  • Probation
  • Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may also face additional criminal charges.

Defending Against a Felony DUI Charge in Virginia

Defending against a felony DUI charge asks for a nuanced, strategic approach to challenge the prosecution's claims and evidence. With this in mind, anyone facing felony DUI charges is strongly encouraged to consult with an experienced DUI attorney familiar with Virginia's DUI laws.

Common defense strategies may include:

  • Challenging the legality of the traffic stop
  • Disputing field sobriety test results
  • Questioning the accuracy of BAC testing
  • Proving rights violations

The particular strategy you employ when fighting DUI felony charges will depend upon the circumstances of your case. This includes the particulars of your traffic stop and arrest and the context surrounding the situation.

What Does a DUI Defense Attorney Do?

As you can see, these cases can be incredibly complex, which is why legal representation is frequently recommended. Professional legal guidance can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. An attorney can evaluate your case, advise you of your rights, and help you develop a robust defense strategy tailored to the specific circumstances of your case.

A DUI defense attorney can assist in various ways, including:

  • Conducting a Detailed Investigation: Gathering all pertinent details about the arrest, including police reports and witness statements.
  • Assessment of Legal Options: Providing a detailed analysis of the case's facts to inform the development of a defense strategy.
  • Negotiating with Prosecution: Working towards reducing charges or penalties through negotiation when appropriate or possible.
  • Representation in Court: Advocating on the client’s behalf during hearings and trial.
  • Filing Legal Motions: This includes motions to suppress evidence if obtained unlawfully.
  • Assisting with License Suspension Issues: Helping clients manage the implications of a suspended license and working towards its reinstatement.
  • Advising on the Consequences of Conviction: Explaining the potential impact on future employment, education opportunities, and personal life.

Initial Consultation: Preparation and Expectations

The initial consultation with a DUI defense attorney is critical in building your defense. This meeting not only allows the attorney to assess your case's strengths and weaknesses but also allows you to evaluate the attorney's compatibility with your needs. To make the most of this consultation, it's essential to come prepared.

What to bring to your initial consultation:

  • Detailed account of the DUI arrest: Include times, locations, and any interactions with law enforcement.
  • Any documentation related to your arrest: This might include bail papers, search inventory, and a copy of the police report, if available.
  • Prior criminal record: Information about any previous DUI or other criminal charges.
  • Witness information: Names and contact details of anyone who was with you before, during, or after the DUI arrest.
  • Questions for the attorney: Prepare a list of questions or concerns you have about your case or the legal process.

Remember, the goal of the initial consultation is to equip your attorney with a comprehensive understanding of your case while offering you insights into how they can help. Being thorough and honest during this meeting is crucial to forming an effective defense strategy.

If you or a loved one was arrested on a felony DUI charge in Virginia, reach out to Andrew J. Cornick, Attorney at Law, for guidance.