In Virginia, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle (including a moped), engine, or train while any one of the following conditions are also true of the driver:
Commercial drivers face a lesser included offense for operating a commercial motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more.
While anyone will get a DWI charge if he or she meets the above-listed requirements, regardless of age, minors are subject to more rules and regulations. For DWI charges, the word "minor" encompasses anyone under the age of 21.
If someone under 21 operates a motor vehicle after illegally consuming alcohol, and has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent, but less than 0.08 percent, this can be charged as "Person under age 21 driving after illegally consuming alcohol."
When driving in Virginia, you are presumed to have already consented to provide samples of blood, breath, or both to determine whether alcohol, drugs, or both are present in your system. When someone submits to a breath test, he or she has the right to observe the process, see the test result, and if the machine provides a written printout, he or she has a right to a copy of those printed results.
If someone refuses to take a breath test or is incapable of submitting to a breath test, the law allows taking blood to determine the presence of drugs or alcohol. This law, however, only allows the taking of a blood sample where other facts provide police with probable cause to believe the person was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
It is illegal in Virginia to refuse to take a test if asked by law enforcement upon arrest for suspected DWI. You can, however, refuse a preliminary breath test that may be requested prior to an arrest.
Technically, the difference between a DWI and a DUI is the words used to create the acronym. A DWI refers to driving while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, while DUI refers to driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Practically speaking, they constitute the same offense under Virginia law. They are both slang terms that don't actually have legally distinguishable meanings.
Virginia, like many states, makes no distinction between driving while intoxicated on public roads, private roads, or even in your own driveway. A recent bill, which would allow an exemption to driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence for those on their own property, such as listening to the radio in your parked car in our own driveway, failed to get enough votes to become law.
As a criminal offense, drivers face both the potential for fines and jail time. Drivers also face the possibility of losing their license for a period of time, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Minors under 21 face the loss of their license to drive as well as mandatory fines or community service. There may also be a period of incarceration for a conviction for driving after consuming alcohol.
For a first time refusal, a person will lose his or her driving privileges. A second refusal within 10 years of a first refusal or prior DWI is a criminal offense, which results in the loss of driving privileges, a fine, and potential jail time.
The law provides a number of areas of attack in DWI cases. For example, police must have a legal basis to stop your car in the first place. Next, they must have reasonable suspicion to ask for a breath or blood sample. The laws in Virginia are very specific about who may collect a blood sample and how the sample must be collected. The rules of evidence demand a clear and unbroken chain of custody of any blood sample. For breath and blood samples, the instruments used must be properly maintained and calibrated on a regular schedule. Failure to do so may result in an inaccurate test result.
Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, other issues may present themselves, such as the following:
If you are facing DWI charges, you need qualified legal counsel on your side. Contact Koehler & Vernail, Attorneys at Law, to speak with one of our experienced DWI attorneys. We can answer your questions, determine if there is a legal challenge to the stop, the request to take the test, the test results, or any other potential problem with the case, and assist you every step of the way.