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An officer must have probable cause to pull you over. Probable cause is usually demonstrated through erratic driving such as swerving, speeding or violating simple traffic laws. Officers are also able to question drivers as to whether they had been drinking at the scene of an accident, regardless of whose fault the accident was. Occasionally officers will set up formal checkpoints in order to screen all drivers for signs of intoxication.
Once you are pulled over you should expect the following events:
- You will be questioned as to whether you had been drinking, how much you had to drink, and when you had your last drink. The question regarding your last drink is very important in cases where there was an accident and the officer did not witness it. Unless the police can show that your last drink was before your accident, it is difficult for them to accurately determine whether you were drunk at the time you were operating the car.
- If the officer wishes, he can have you perform "field sobriety" tests in order to determine if there is further probable cause to conclude that you are under the influence of alcohol. The tests include the Horizontal Gaze eye test, the Walk and Turn, and the One Leg Stand test. If you perform poorly on these tests, the officer may arrest you under suspicion of drunk driving.
- Upon arrest, you will be handcuffed and taken to a location to provide a sample of your breath for analysis. If the reading is .08 or above, there will be a presumption of your guilt. If you refuse to take the Breathalyzer test your driver's license can be suspended for 1 year, even if you are subsequently found not guilty. It is also important to know that even without the breath test, the prosecutor can still go forward and use the results of the field sobriety test against you.
- If you are arrested for drinking and driving, the police will take your Virginia license for a one-week administrative suspension. Your license will be returned after that time, and you will keep it without restriction until a court makes a final decision on your case. If you have a license from another state, the Virginia police cannot take your driver's license away.
- After you are arrested, you will be held in county jail until a magistrate makes a decision on whether to issue a bond in order for you to be released.
- If you speak only a language other than English, such as Korean, Chinese or Spanish, the officer must obtain an interpreter to go over your rights and advise you about what is happening during the field sobriety tests, as well as the Breathalyzer test.
- If you are convicted of drinking and driving, the Virginia law mandates at least a one-year loss of license, as well as an alcohol safety class, fines, and in some cases where the blood alcohol level is .15 and above, requires mandatory jail.
If you have been arrested for a DUI/DWI it is important that you consult an experienced Virginia DUI attorney immediately because DUI is a criminal offense and carries potentially severe penalties. An experienced attorney can guide you through the court process and find any possible defenses that can either mitigate the penalties in the case, or in some instances, lead to an acquittal or dismissal. Portner & Shure now has a satellite office in Ashburn, Virginia to serve our DUI/DWI clients.
If you or a family member has been charged with DUI or DWI and would like a free legal consultation or if you would like more information on DUI or DWI please feel free to contact our office at (855) 954-4141 or visit our website.