The Major and Minor Hidden Costs of a Virginia DWI Conviction: From the Perspective of a Fairfax DUI Lawyer
When a person is convicted of a DWI in Virginia, it is either a felony or the most harshly punished type of misdemeanor. If you are researching Virginia DWI laws for the first time, here are some important initial points:
- Subsequent DWI’s are punished more severely
- DWI defense is a very technical, complex area of the law
- Due to the consequences (even a first DWI charge), our legal professional strongly warns against failing to secure counsel if charged with DWI
- For a second DWI, one should plan on jail
The fact that a first Virginia DWI will increase a person’s risk going forward (should he or she be convicted again, or if they violate the terms of a suspended sentence) is just one not-so-obvious hidden cost of a DWI. As our Fairfax DUI lawyer shall explain, there are several major hidden costs and consequences, and many possible ramifications (some of which may be minor).
Don’t Miss: this chart is a way to quickly learn the jail various mandatory jail sentences and fines associated with first, second, third, etc. DWI offenses, as well as by BAC levels and other factors.
Several Major Hidden Costs
According to our Fairfax DUI Lawyer
As a Northern Virginia criminal attorney, I think it is extremely important for any person facing a serious crime like DWI to completely understand the all possible penalties; I do not solely mean those penalties inherent to a particular class of offense.
In other words, instead of only considering the possible fine, court fees, and jail sentence you face, you actually must consider the short and long-term consequences, many of which are not found in the Code. Sometimes these consequences are merely inconvenient and affect a person’s life in a minor way. But others are major problems, and they can and do often disrupt the person’s life. If you understand what you are facing and the different options you have, you will be in a better position to look back on the case after it is resolved with a sigh of relief. Our Fairfax DUI Lawyer believes it is critical for you to understand the not-so-obvious consequence just as much as the penalties laid out by the law.
The statutes in Virginia often list the classification of an offense. For example, a Virginia reckless driving violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor. What does that mean? Well, there is a separate section of the Code that defines and lays out the maximum penalties you face in the case of a Class 1 misdemeanor. But a DWI may be a Class 1 misdemeanor or a felony. For purposes of this post, we will refer to any hypothetical DWI as a misdemeanor.
So, what are these so-called non-hidden penalties?
- The maximum fine is $2,500, and
- the maximum jail sentence is 12 months.
Some offenses also include other obvious penalties (clearly mentioned in the statute). These penalties may include
- loss of driving privileges,
- required classes or programs, and
- other terms and conditions.
Despite all of these negative things: fines, jail time, substance abuse classes, community service, and loss of driving privileges…there are even more consequences lurking around the corner. In the following paragraphs, our Fairfax DUI lawyer lists and explains several major penalties, and several minor ones.
Major Hidden Penalties
Criminal Record, Tainted Forever
One of the most common fears — almost across the board for all types of criminal violations — is that a conviction or the charge alone will lead to termination from one’s place of employment.
Some offenses are more damaging in this way. A Virginia DWI is not an offense most employers or agencies take lightly. In Virginia, a conviction or a guilty plea (including plea bargains) result in disqualification for expungement. This means that the record of the DUI will stay on your record for the rest of your life, and there is nothing that can be done about it. Our Fairfax DUI lawyer has published much content explaining the Virginia expungement rules (should you be interested in learning about the process, procedures, and rules, find below suggested resources).
But it’s just a misdemeanor! (discussing expungement as one reason to take a misdemeanor charge seriously from the beginning, plus the embarrassing nature of some misdemeanors)
As a Fairfax DUI lawyer serving Prince William, Alexandria, Arlington, Loudoun, Spotsylvania, and other nearby jurisdictions, I always make sure my clients know that by accepting a plea deal, it may obliterate the chances of expunging the record later. But I also make it clear that there is a way to fight any charge. It may be a substantive, legal defense. Or, there could be a way to win a case on technical grounds. If a case results in a not guilty verdict, or is otherwise dismissed, then expungement is possible. But be careful! Just because a case is dismissed, it does not mean it will always qualify for expungement. Read more about the first offender program in Virginia, and why a case dismissal does not always mean what you think it does.
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and your insurance company may penalize you if you are a Virginia driver. Despite the fact that you will not find anything about insurance rates or DMV demerit points in the Virginia Code Section 18.2-266, the financial burdens resulting from insurance rate hikes, suspended or revoked license ramifications nearly always amount to a significant hidden cost consequence.
Burdening Family, Friends, and your Bank Account
If you have no way to drive (for example, if your license is revoked as a result of a DWI conviction), then you will need to rely on someone else to get to and from your place of work, place of worship, doctor’s office, places where your children need to go, and so on. In some criminal matters, when one loses his or her privilege to drive, there remains an ability to apply for a restricted license. The restricted license allows the person to drive to the aforementioned important places, but only at specific times. In many DWI cases in Virginia, however, a person is not allowed to apply for a restricted license. If someone does not have a family member or friend willing to help them on a regular basis, public transportation is the next logical way to commute. The problem is, taking a bus or cab every day can be not only prohibitively expensive, but also time-consuming.
Each Virginia DWI: Moves You Closer to More Mandatory Jail Time
After a first DWI in Virginia, a person’s Blood Alcohol Content/Concentration) (BAC) level is important. Other factors include how long it has been since the prior DWI (or DWI’s), as well as the state where the person was previously convicted. In some states, the offense is not substantially similar, and thus should not count in Virginia. But most of the time, a DWI in one state is going to be considered a DWI in Virginia, for purposes of determining whether or not you should be prosecuted as if you have committed a first DWI, or a subsequent. Mandatory jail time cannot be suspended or bargained away, and as such, a conviction for anything other than a first DWI, or a DWI over a certain BAC level, results in mandatory time. This is a major hidden cost, since a person’s odds of serving active jail time for DWI increase exponentially after each DWI conviction. It does not necessarily effect them then and there, but for 10 years it will hang over their head in this regard.
Hidden Minor Consequences
There are some consequences that, for all intents and purposes, are unforeseeable to an extent. Yet, there are other obvious, foreseeable issues. The costs one must pay for Virginia Alcohol Safety and Awareness Program participation, installation of an ignition interlock device, substance abuse evaluation(s), and other programs requiring you to foot the bill are not conveniently spelled out in one place, nor do judges explain the cost of each program to each defendant. But a criminal defense attorney and DUI lawyer considers this to be part of his or her duties.
Another minor consequence is the fact that if a conviction leads to a suspended sentence of some sort (and often, a plea bargain will include suspended time…as will a judge’s sentence), you will be walking on pins and needles, so to speak. One slip up or even a false accusation against you, and the suspended sentence could be triggered.
Each case is unique; each person’s goals are, too
…and as a result, the consequences of a particular individual’s specific DWI conviction vary tremendously
Surely, other minor consequences could be listed aside from those described above: a person’s reputation; future job opportunities; interference of programs and classes with work hours; setting a poor example for children or siblings; requiring others to spend money on legal fees; and so many more. Serving as a Fairfax DUI Lawyer, I have encountered clients who are concerned about one or two specific things, and I have served people who are mildly concerned about a myriad of issues. How your prior record and facts of your case come together to what ultimately becomes your final outcome is something that should be feared. That said, nobody should have fear if they have found a compatible Virginia defense attorney to:
- guide them through the legal process,
- fight for them to secure a favorable outcome, and
- provide the type of legal advice that is aimed at achieving a healthy lifestyle, reducing stress, and eliminating or reducing the harmful effect of a non-expungeable record.
For a case evaluation from our Northern Virginia serving, Fairfax DWI Attorney and Fairfax DUI Lawyer, request a free consultation or call: 703.665.3719
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