DUI Penalties in Augusta, VA

DUI Penalties in Augusta, VA

If you were arrested for a DUI in Augusta county, you will be expected to appear in the Augusta General District Court, for a 1st appearance, typically a week or so after your arrest date. 

A DUI, even for a first offense, is a serious matter in Augusta, Virginia. The maximum penalties are very severe and although rarely ever imposed, allow for one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2500. While those maximum penalties are uncommon, there are minimum penalties which are very commonly imposed, and which still result in active jail time and a license suspension of 12 months. This is true whether you are a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia or are from out-of-state.

Because DUI charges in these jurisdictions carry the possibility of jail time, you must appear in court to be advised of your right to counsel. This occurs at the first appearance.

For a first DUI conviction, Virginia law requires mandatory jail time if the defendants BAC was found to be .15 or greater and the law provides for additional mandatory jail time where the drivers BAC was found to be .20 or greater. The judge has no discretion to work around these mandatory punishments leading to jail time if this is evidence submitted before the court.

The maximum penalty for a DUI 1st in Virginia is $2500 but, typically, in most courts the fine is about $250 to $350, but this fine may increase in cases involving higher BAC's.

The driver can also expect to pay hundreds more dollars in costs related to probation and installation and maintenance of the required ignition interlock device.

First DUI in Augusta, VA
  • Maximum fine of $2,500 and 1 year in jail
  • Mandatory minimum fine of $250
  • If BAC .15 or greater but less than .20 = 5 days in jail
  • .20 or greater = 10 days in jail
  • 7 day administrative license suspension
  • 12 month license suspension by the court
  • If requesting a restricted license, ignition interlock required § 18.2-270.1 for 6 months
  • Completion of a VASAP course

A DUI, even for a first offense, is a serious matter in Virginia. The maximum penalties are very severe and although rarely ever imposed, allow for one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2500. While those maximum penalties are uncommon, there are minimum penalties which are very commonly imposed, and which still result in active jail time and a license suspension of 12 months. This is true whether you are a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia or are from out-of-state.

In most DUI cases the driver has never been convicted of a DUI before. This process is understandably confusing and in some cases frightening. My goal is to help you avoid these potentially serious penalties for a DUI in Virginia.

For a first DUI conviction, Virginia law requires mandatory jail time if the defendants BAC was found to be .15 or greater and the law provides for additional mandatory jail time where the drivers BAC was found to be .20 or greater. The judge has no discretion to work around these mandatory punishments leading to jail time if this is evidence submitted before the court.

The maximum penalty for a DUI 1st in Virginia is $2500 but, typically, in most courts the fine is about $250 to $350, but this fine may increase in cases involving higher BAC's.

The driver can also expect to pay hundreds more dollars in costs related to probation and installation and maintenance of the required ignition interlock device.

A driver will be required to complete a VASAP course in order to get his license back

Second DUI within 5 years in Augusta, VA

While all DUIs Virginia are serious, certainly a second DUI in Augusta carries serious penalties. There is mandatory jail time, which in some instances can be substantial, license suspension where there is no option for a restricted license in certain cases, and higher fines and costs. It is important to act to ensure that you are in the best position to protect your future. 

In Augusta County, Virginia, for a DUI 2nd within 5 years, the driver will lose his privilege to drive in Virginia for three years and will also be subject to an ignition interlock requirement for the entirety of that three year license suspension. Perhaps the most significant penalty for a DUI second in Virginia is that the driver will not be eligible for a restricted driver's license in Virginia for an entire year if the prior offense was committed within five years of the current offense. There is also a mandatory $500 fine and the driver can expect to incur hundreds more dollars and costs associated with the Ignition interlock requirements.

  • Maximum fine of $2,500 fine
  • $500 minimum fine
  • 20 day mandatory minimum jail sentence
  • Additional 10 day jail sentence if BAC greater than or equal to .15
  • Additional 20 day jail sentence if BAC greater than or equal to .20
  • Restricted license eligible after 1 year § 18.2-271.1(E)
  • Iginition interlock required for 6 months to 3 years
  • License suspension for 3 years by DMV § 46.2-391(A)
Third DUI within 10 years in Augusta, VA 

All DUI convictions in Augusta are serious, but naturally a third DUI conviction will be even more severe than a first or second conviction would be. 

A third DUI in Virginia is a class VI felony and requires one to five years in prison. There is a 6 month mandatory minimum period of incarceration for a DUI third within 5 years, and a 90 day mandatory minimum period for a DUI third within 10 years. 

A DUI third within five years is a class VI felony and carries 1 to 5 years in prison or up to one year in jail plus a $2500 fine in Augusta, VA.  Furthermore many judges will not grant a defendant facing a DUI third charge bond and that defendant can expect to be held it in custody at the jail during the pendency of his case.

Perhaps the most significant negative consequence of a conviction for a DUI third is that the defendant will lose his privilege to drive in Virginia indefinitely. In order to regain his privilege to drive the driver must petition the Circuit Court, and may not simply request a license from the DMV after having completed a pre-set license suspension period. After three years a driver may petition the court for a restricted license but the requirements to obtain this license are substantial. The defendant's vehicle will also be subject to forfeiture. There is also a six month ignition interlock requirement that must be completed upon restoration of a drivers license.

  • Class 6 felony conviction
  • $1000 fine
  • 90 day mandatory minimum jail time
  • Not eligible for restricted license
  • May petition for restricted license 3 years after date of conviction. Limited to driving to and from work and in course of employment
  • Ignition interlock required at least 6 months upon restoration of license or with a restricted license during time of suspension
  • License suspended indefinitely but may petition after 5 years
  • Vehicle forfeiture

Ways to Fight a DUI Conviction in Augusta

There may be a reasonable basis for challenging just about all of the evidence presented by the prosecutor. This includes challenging

  • Unlawful traffic stops
  • Illegal searches/seizures
  • Improper field sobriety tests
  • Inaccurate breath and blood tests
  • False-positive BAC levels
  • Non-alcohol related reasons for appearing impaired

There are two primary ways your Virginia DUI defense lawyer can challenge the prosecutor's evidence in a criminal court case. This includes filing pre-trial motions to keep improper evidence out of court and by presenting their case to the judge or jury.

A motion to suppress is a request to exclude certain evidence from trial. If the motion is successful, a judge will not consider this evidence against the defendant or in a jury trial, the jury may never even see the evidence. In some cases, when the prosecutor's evidence is suppressed, they may have no case to prosecute and the charges will be dropped. When this happens, the defendant can win without even going to trial.

Unlawful Traffic Stops in Virginia

It may seem like the police will pull someone over for no reason at all. However, legally, the police need reasonable suspicion to pull you over. The police need some articulable reason to believe that you are doing something unlawful. If the police do not have reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop, then any evidence gathered from an illegal stop may be able to be suppressed.

However, reasonable suspicion to stop the car does not have to be based on a reason to think the driver is intoxicated. The police can stop a car for even a minor traffic violation. During that stop, the police may then suspect the driver may be intoxicated. Many DUI arrests are based on initial stops for something like driving without headlights turned on, a broken tail light, or improper lane change.

If the police pull you over without reasonable suspicion that you were doing anything illegal, your lawyer may be able to suppress any evidence gathered after that illegal stop. This includes observations that the driver smelled of alcohol, breathalyzer tests, or field sobriety tests. Without this evidence, the prosecutor may have no case.

Illegal Search & Seizure

Even if the police have probable cause to make a traffic stop, it does not give them full access to search whatever they want. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution provides certain protections against unreasonable search and seizure by the government.

Before the police can search your vehicle, they must have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains some evidence of criminal activity. Even then, the police are generally limited to searching those areas of the vehicle. If the police do not have probable cause to search the vehicle, then any evidence the police gather may have been in violation of the individual's constitutional rights and that evidence should be suppressed.

There are some exceptions to the laws against illegal search and seizure. If the police see evidence of illegal activity through the windows of the car, that may fall under the plain view exception. For example, the police stop a driver for failing to make a complete stop at a stop sign. The officer then sees a beer can sticking out from under the passenger seat. Because the can was in plain view, that evidence may be admissible.

Another common exception is where the driver gives the police consent to search the car. Many drivers feel pressured into allowing the police to search them or their vehicle. They may even make it sound like things will go easier for them if they consent to a search. However, by consenting to a search, you may be giving up your right to challenge the illegal search when you have your day in court.

If the police pull you over for a traffic stop and there is no other evidence of illegal activity, it may be difficult for a police officer to claim that he or she had probable cause to search the vehicle. If the police search the vehicle in violation of your rights and find alcohol or drugs, your attorney may be able to suppress the evidence in your DUI (or drug possession or underage alcohol possession case).

Improper Field Sobriety Testing in Virginia

Most people are familiar with field sobriety tests from watching cop shows. These are the roadside tests law enforcement officers conduct to evaluate a driver's impairment. There are three so-called standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). However, these tests can be highly inaccurate.

Field sobriety tests rely on the police giving proper instructions and the police officer's subjective observations. They can also be compromised by environmental factors, like speeding traffic, flashing lights in the subject's eyes, and the stress of standing on the side of the highway like a criminal.

There are also a number of reasons why someone may “fail” these tests that have nothing to do with alcohol or drugs. Age, physical ability, weight, type of shoes, medical conditions, and other factors can all make it more difficult or even impossible to complete these tests to the police officer's satisfaction.

One-Leg-Stand Test

The One-Leg-Stand test requires the suspect to raise one leg approximately six inches off the ground, with the foot pointed out, and while holding the position, count out loud until told to stop.

Moving their arms to keep balance, touching the foot to the ground, stopping counting, looking up, or falling over may all be reasons why the police officer thinks the test shows the driver is impaired.

Walk-and-Turn Test

The walk-and-turn test instructions generally include walking heel-to-toe along a straight line for nine steps. Then turning and returning heel-to-toe, counting the steps out loud.

Losing balance, failing to count out loud, stepping off the line, turning too soon or too late, or starting too early may be considered a failed test.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (Eye Test)

The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test is an eye test where the officer asks the individual to follow a pen, light, or finger back and forth with their eyes. Many drivers end up performing this test without even realizing it is part of the roadside field sobriety tests.

With the HGN test, the officer is looking for an involuntary movement of the eye that can occur when the driver is impaired by alcohol or other substances. This requires the officer to observe specific smoothness of the movement, angle of onset, and maximum deviation.

SFST Training and Instructions in Virginia DUIs

All these tests are also as much about following instructions as completing the task. The officer generally says not to begin until the individual is told to do so. The police officer then gives the instructions and finally says to begin the test. If you start the test early or forget part of the instructions, that may be considered a failed test.

It is not uncommon to start the test early or forget all the instructions. This does not necessarily mean the driver is drunk, only that they are nervous. It is not against the law to be nervous when the police pull you over and have you perform tests on the side of a busy road. However, that may be the reason the officer says you “failed” the field sobriety tests.

These tests are also based on the officers giving the full instructions, the correct instructions, and properly observing the test. When an officer forgets to give part of the instructions, the driver can “fail” through no fault of their own. Similarly, if an officer moves the pen too quickly on an eye test or doesn't estimate the right angle of eye movement, the driver could “fail” the test even when completely sober.

Inaccurate Breath and Blood Tests in Virginia DUI Cases

Breath and blood chemical tests are not always accurate. These tests rely on the machines being properly cleaned and calibrated. To be accurate, these tests also have to be properly administered and observed. Other problems can be caused by outside factors or the individual's own body chemistry and medical conditions.

Using a breath test machine to measure an individual's blood alcohol content (BAC) requires the officer observe the individual for a certain amount of time. It also requires regular maintenance of the machine and calibration. When using a blood test, contamination of the blood sample or mixing up samples could show a driver with drugs in their system or a BAC over the limit even if the driver has not consumed any alcohol or drugs. Even a minor error could bump a driver up from a 0.07% BAC to an over-the-limit 0.08% BAC.

Your DUI defense lawyer can subpoena the police equipment records to check for maintenance and calibration. Your attorney can also review police records to find any evidence that the officer's were not following the rules. Your attorney can also present evidence of the inaccuracies of these tests to the jury in your defense.

False-Positive BAC Levels

There are a number of reasons why a breath or blood test could show a driver had a BAC over the limit or drugs in their system that is unrelated to drinking or taking drugs. This may include using mouthwash or an inhaler shortly before a test or eating certain foods. Some medical conditions, like acid reflux or GERD, may also cause elevated mouth alcohol levels that make it seem like the driver has a higher BAC.

Non-Alcohol Related Reasons for Appearing Impaired

Medical conditions or disabilities can also make a driver appear impaired to a police officer looking for drunk drivers. Even temporary issues, like allergies, physical exertion, the flu, or simply being tired can be identified as signs of impairment to the police. Any of these non-alcohol related reasons may cause

  • Slurred speech,
  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Poor balance, or
  • Difficulty concentrating on instructions.

Charlottesville DUI Defense Lawyer

Getting arrested for drunk driving does not mean you have to be convicted. There are a number of potential DUI defenses in your case. However, the time to fight a DUI is not on the side of the road or in the police station. Your best chance to fight a DUI conviction is having the right criminal defense lawyer on your side. Talk to an experienced Virginia DUI defense attorney about your case. Contact attorney Thomas M. Wilson today for a free consultation.

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Attorney Advertising. Every legal matter is different. The outcome of every case depends on numerous factors, and no attorney can guarantee a positive result in any given case.

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Focused on Criminal and Traffic defense in Charlottesville and the surrounding area, including Albemarle, Orange, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Buckingham, Goochland, Nelson, and Augusta Counties.

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