Representing Clients Facing Felony Drunk Driving Charges
While most people appreciate the hard work of law enforcement officers keeping everyone safe, the very sight of flashing lights in your rearview mirror after you’ve had a couple of alcoholic drinks is enough to send a chill down your spine. So, what happens when you are charged with a DUI in Virginia? Will you be facing a misdemeanor charge, or will your DUI be considered a felony? The attorneys at The Law Office of Scott C. Nolan, PLLC, explain how felony DUI charges work in Virginia and what an attorney can do to help you secure a better outcome for your case. If you are facing DUI charges in Fairfax, VA, call The Law Office of Scott C. Nolan, PLLC, at 703-688-9236.
Are DUIs Considered Misdemeanors or Felonies in Virginia?
In Virginia, driving under the influence (DUI) is the offense of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08% or higher. This legal threshold is even lower for commercial drivers (0.04%) and drivers under the age of 21 (0.02%). Additionally, Virginia laws allow for someone to be charged with a DUI if their BAC is below the legal limit but they are showing clear signs of impairment, such as difficulty controlling their vehicle, slurred speech, and bloodshot eyes.
In Virginia, a DUI can be referred to as a “wobbler” offense, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. In most cases, a DUI is charged as a misdemeanor, especially if it is a first-time offense and nobody was injured or killed. However, repeat offenders and first-time offenders with aggravating circumstances may end up facing felony charges for a DUI in certain cases.
What Makes a DUI Be Charged as a Felony?
A DUI may automatically be charged as a felony if an individual is convicted of three DUI offenses within a 10-year period. In addition, if the individual has been previously convicted of any type of felony DUI offense, any new DUIs may also be considered felonies. In some cases, a first-time offender could be facing felony DUI charges if their actions caused someone else to be injured or killed.
It is important to mention that a driver who injures or kills someone while intoxicated could be facing additional felony charges such as DUI maiming or manslaughter, regardless of whether this is their first DUI or not. In general, severe DUI-related offenses are considered Class 6 felonies in Virginia and are subject to fines and prison time.
What Are the Penalties for a Felony DUI in Virginia?
For a felony DUI, penalties are severe and come with mandatory minimum sentences that make it difficult to avoid jail time. If this is your third DUI conviction within ten years, you may be sentenced to a minimum of 90 days in jail. If your third offense happened within five years or less from the second offense, the minimum jail sentence is six months. There may also be a mandatory fine of up to $1,000.00 in addition to having your license revoked permanently.
If you are charged with a Class 6 felony for a DUI in Virginia, you would be facing the least serious type of felony charge, but that does not mean your charges may be taken lightly. Having any type of felony on your record can cause serious consequences that affect other areas of your life. You may lose your driving privileges indefinitely and may have difficulty keeping your job or finding new employment due to having a criminal record and being unable to drive. In addition, you may also face challenges in situations that require passing a background check, such as renting an apartment or securing education opportunities.
How Can an Attorney Help Me Defend Against a Felony DUI Charge?
If you are facing felony DUI charges, chances are you have a lot on the line. Your best bet is to hire a skilled felony DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you understand your charges and potential penalties and devise a defense strategy to help you reach a better outcome.
There are several different defense strategies an attorney may use, depending on the specific circumstances surrounding your arrest. For example, if you were charged with a DUI after a police officer pulled over your vehicle, your attorney can conduct an investigation to determine if the police officer truly had enough probable cause to conduct the traffic stop.
If it is determined that the stop was made without sufficient probable cause, any evidence collected during that stop may be considered inadmissible as it may be the product of an illegal search and seizure that violates the defendant’s constitutional rights. If that’s the case, evidence such as breathalyzer results or field sobriety test results may have to be suppressed from the court case, weakening the prosecution’s arguments against you. This could potentially lead to the prosecution dropping all charges against you.
Every case is unique, and results are not guaranteed, but the sooner you reach out to a DUI defense attorney, the better your chances are of avoiding the maximum sentence and reaching a favorable outcome for your case. The attorneys at The Law Office of Scott C. Nolan, PLLC, have assisted countless clients facing felony DUI charges in Fairfax, VA, and surrounding areas, and they are ready to help you fight back to keep your license and your freedom. If you are being charged, call The Law Office of Scott C. Nolan, PLLC, at 703-688-9236.