What to Know about a DUI in Fairfax County

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What is a DUI in Fairfax County, Virginia?

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) makes it illegal for anyone to operate a vehicle in Fairfax County, Virginia, with a BAC or blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. For people with a commercial driver’s license, the legal limit is even lower—0.04%. For those under 21 years of age, any detectable alcohol (0.02%-0.08%) can result in a DUI charge.

Virginia DWI and DUI laws are covered by Virginia Code § 18.2-266:

It shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine or train (i) while such person has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more by weight by volume or 0.08 grams or more per 210 liters of breath as indicated by a chemical test administered as provided in this article, (ii) while such person is under the influence of alcohol, (iii) while such person is under the influence of any narcotic drug or any other self-administered intoxicant or drug of whatsoever nature, or any combination of such drugs, to a degree which impairs his ability to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine or train safely, (iv) while such person is under the combined influence of alcohol and any drug or drugs to a degree which impairs his ability to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine or train safely, or (v) while such person has a blood concentration of any of the following substances at a level that is equal to or greater than: (a) 0.02 milligrams of cocaine per liter of blood, (b) 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamine per liter of blood, (c) 0.01 milligrams of phencyclidine per liter of blood, or (d) 0.1 milligrams of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine per liter of blood. 

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is used interchangeably in Virginia. Read more about the Fairfax County Courthouse here.

What happens after I’m charged with a DUI in Fairfax County?

Arrest: This usually occurs if, based on your driving behavior, officers suspect that you are driving under the influence or it is a routine traffic stop that turns into a DUI arrest. This can happen if you answer statements about drinking, have the smell of alcohol on your breath, agree to do roadside field sobriety tests. Doing field sobriety tests or roadside breathalyzer at this point is not mandatory and not recommended.

Booking: After the arrest, officers will take you to the station to administer the breathalyzer. This test is mandatory and you must take it or risk getting a separate charge called refusal. This test determines your BAC, which will dictate your charge and potential punishment. If they are not able to do a breathalyzer because you did not cooperate or you had a medical condition that prevented you, officers can also conduct a blood test to get your BAC.

Court dates: After you are booked and released, you will have to appear in court. If this case is a blood case (meaning they did a blood test to determine your BAC), this case will be specially docketed on a “blood docket” in Fairfax so that the lab results and the nurse who did your test can be there to testify. If it is a normal BAC DUI, it is hugely important that you appear with counsel as this will be the first chance to speak to the prosecutors and witnesses in your case about the evidence. If this is a DUID or driving under the influence of drugs such as marijuana, your blood test will similarly take longer for lab results. Each type of DUI requires different nuances to fight and beat the charge.

Plea or Trial: Whether you should take a plea or take your case to trial will depend on the evidence in your specific case, whether are there any 4th amendment suppression issues such as an illegal stop of your vehicle or if the officer lacked probable cause to arrest you for a DUI after his interaction with you on the road. This is an extremely important decision and should not be made without consulting an attorney.

What are the penalties for a DUI in Fairfax County, Virginia?

DUI is a serious offense that has significant legal consequences from license suspension, a misdemeanor conviction, loss of professional licenses, as well as fines. The penalties for a DUI can vary depending on factors such as driver’s BAC level, prior convictions, and whether anyone accident or injuries occurred as a result of the DUI. Aside from the conviction and jail time, the additional punishments will include fines, probation, installing an ignition interlock, and alcohol safety classes (ASAP).

Some DUIs are felony offenses based on the facts involved or the prior record of the driver.

DUI 1st Offense

JailBAC .15+BAC .20+License
Up to 12 months5 days mandatory minimum10 days mandatory minimum12 months license loss

DUI 2nd Offense

DUI TypeJailBAC .15+BAC .20+License
DUI 2nd in 5 years (Misdemeanor)Up to 12 months but at least 20 days30 days mandatory minimum40 days mandatory minimum36 months loss of license
DUI 2nd in 10 years (Misdemeanor)Up to 12 months but at least 10 days20 days mandatory minimum30 days mandatory minimum36 months of loss of license

 DUI 3rd Offense

DUI TypeJailBAC .15+BAC .20+License
DUI 3rd in 5 years (Felony)Up to 5 years but at least 180 days190 days mandatory minimum200 days mandatory minimumIndefinite loss of license
DUI 3rd in 10 years (Felony)Up to 5 years but at least 90 days100 days mandatory minimum110 days mandatory minimumIndefinite loss of license

Frequently Asked Questions About a DUI in Fairfax, Virginia

Can I still be charged with a DUI if my BAC was below .08%?

When your BAC is 0.08% or higher, the court will assume that you were driving under the influence and that it had an impact on your driving behavior. However, if your BAC was below 0.08%, you can still be charged with a DUI if the Commonwealth can prove that you were still impaired despite the lower BAC. If your BAC is between .005%-0.008%, it will be up the prosecutor to prove to the court that you were driving under the influence though other means such as your driving behavior. That is why you can have a conviction for a DUI even if your BAC is lower than 0.08%.

What are some other charges that can come from a DUI charge?

DUI maiming (Va. Code 18.2-51.4): You are charged with this if they arrest you for a DUI and it resulted in injuries to another person or a passenger in your car.

DUI with a child in car: If you have a child in your car when you are arrested for a DUI, you can have an additional fine and be given a mandatory minimum jail sentence of an additional 5 days.

What if I need to drive and my license can be suspended?

The court will allow you to petition for a restricted license which will allow you to travel for work and other required driving with the addition of an ignition interlock.

Why are some DUIs felonies and not misdemeanor?

Whether it is charged as a felony or misdemeanor will depend on whether you have other DUIs on your record. If it is your first DUI offense, it will be a misdemeanor.

Collateral Issues from a DUI/DWI

In addition to the penalties provided above, there are various collateral consequences associated with a Virginia driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated criminal conviction.  The DMV may assess points on your license and your insurance company may later increase your insurance premium.  Likewise, immigration consequences, employment considerations, and licensing restrictions may also pose a problem.

Contact Our Experienced DUI/DWI Attorneys for a Free Consultation

Contact the office today to consult with an experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney if you are suspected of a driving while intoxicated offense.