Virginia DWI Misconceptions: 4-Part Series
Part 1: what do you know about Virginia DWI laws?
Opinions and Insights
Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney
and Northern VA DUI Lawyer
When it comes to the level of general knowledge possessed by the public about driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws in Virginia — it seems to me that many people know a lot about a little, and not much about a lot. This is to be expected and one should never feel embarrassed for lack of knowledge in this area: Virginia DWI defense often relies on scientific arguments, and expert witnesses are frequently helpful and/or advisable depending on the issue and other factors. These cases test the defense attorney’s knowledge and mastery of the Virginia Rules of Evidence more so than most other criminal misdemeanor trials.
A lot about a little…
For example, several of the basics below are well known by many adults in Virginia, both attorneys and non-attorneys alike:
- If convicted, one would be required to complete an alcohol safety program. (Many people also know that the program is called “ASAP” (or “VASAP”).
- If convicted, one loses his or her privilege to operate a motor vehicle for a period of time.
- If pulled over, an officer might make me perform field sobriety tests or blow into a breathalyzer.*
- Fines are involved.
- Jail time is possible.
*this statement is far more legally complex than about 95% of individuals who are not Virginia criminal lawyers realize. It is the subject of the next post (Part 2 of this series).
…and not much about a lot.
The basics aside, here are a few lesser-known Virginia DWI issues:
- If arrested (not convicted!), your license will be automatically suspended administratively (before a judge rules)
- Mandatory jail time is often required, but even if no mandatory jail time is required by law, a judge can still sentence you to up to 12 months in jail
- In Virginia, DWI means driving while intoxicated; it does not necessarily mean intoxicated due to alcohol. You can be charged with DWI if you are intoxicated as a result of any substance, including over-the-counter medicine.
- In Virginia, there is an implied consent rule with regard to breath tests.
- A DWI trial often is a battle between both sides to keep certain pieces of evidence in or out.
Virginia DWI Law or Virginia DWI Laws?
Virginia DWI and DUI criminal attorneys must analyze a handful of laws, possibly dozens. To briefly prove this point, this list of Virginia Code Sections below is representative of only a a fraction of laws requiring analysis in many cases:
§§ 18.2-263, 18.2-268.3, 18.2-268.4
This introductory post is meant to lay a foundation; note these premises going forward:
- Many non-lawyers correctly understand some basic Virginia DWI law concepts.
- Despite having a basic understanding of some Virginia DWI concepts, those who are not Virginia criminal attorneys generally either are unaware of particular laws, interconnectedness of such laws, their consequences, or corollary and supplemental rules.
- The next article will cover a single topic…perhaps the most misunderstood Virginia DWI related topic of all…breath test and refusal of breath tests in Virginia.
Ending Part 1 on a Good Note: People take the charge seriously
It is worth mentioning that in my experience, those who have been charged with a Virginia DWI violation and understand even the most basic aspects of the law, usually need no convincing they need to seek counsel.
Perhaps people charged with DWI in Virginia take it seriously due these factors:
- stigma surrounding the dangerous nature of driving while intoxicated
- societal shun
- burdening relatives and friends
- steep consequences, including jail time and fines
- privilege to operate a motor vehicle may be on the line for a very long time
- loss of employment
- security clearance complications
- probation violations
Next Article in Series: Breath Test REFUSAL: Always a Problem?
Part 2 Expected Publish Date: 3/14/14
Waiting for the next part of the series?
Check out past Virginia DUI and DWI articles we have published:
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