Drunk driving is the biggest menace faced both by motorists as well as other road users like cyclists and pedestrians. Alcohol impairs the judgement of the person behind the wheel and also makes him or her more prone to errors in judgement.
Driving under intoxication results in more accidents and fatalities than any other. Governments and law enforcement agencies have put in place strict laws and regulations to curb drunk driving on roads, and the state of Virginia has among the strictest laws.
In Virginia a first offence DUI is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and can lead to criminal conviction, penalties, suspension of license and possible jail time. Timely, experienced and aggressive legal representation can help turn a DUI charge into a non-criminal case.
The wisest things you can do is to never drink and drive. The legal blood alcohol content allowable is .08 and even a glass of wine can set your BAC soaring, landing you in trouble if you get a stop.
Here are a few things you must keep in mind when cops pull you over for a DUI stop in Virginia.
1) Keep Your Cool
If you see a DUI stop ahead do not try to speed by or make a U-turn and drive away. This will only alert the cops who may radio their colleagues to pull you over further on.
Sobriety checkpoints cannot pull over every car passing by. They usually rely on a mathematical formula where they decide to check every fourth or fifth car, or follow a plan along similar lines to decide which cars to detain.
If you are in line wait patiently for your turn. You can also keep your papers ready so that you do not have to hunt for them if you are pulled over.
Keeping your cool and behaving in a polite manner can make things a lot easier at a DUI stop.
2) Do as You Are Asked To
The Federal laws require police to be quick with stops and that’s what the cops try to do as well. Under usual circumstances the police will quickly check your papers including license and auto insurance, and allow you to drive away.
If they feel your speech is slurred, your eyes look glazed or bloodshot, smell alcohol in your breath or find your driving rash, then the officer may ask you to undergo sobriety tests.
Under Virginia law sobriety tests are voluntary. You can decline the field tests if you feel that you may not be able to perform them. Keep in mind that these tests are designed to divide your attention and even healthy and fit people routinely fail them. So it is best if you refuse them.
The officer can arrest you on refusing to perform the tests, but if you agree and fail in the tests you will be arrested and the evidence will be used against you in court.
3) Stay Aware of Your Rights
If the officer asks you to step out of the car, decline politely since it is not obligatory to do so. If it is an order you will have to comply.
You should not undertake preliminary breath tests on hand-held devices since they are not obligatory. Officers usually offer the test to drivers and inform that it is voluntary. They may even assure you that the readings cannot be used in a court of law, but anything that goes to prove you have been drinking is admissible as evidence. You can decline the test and risk arrest, but it is always better than supplying concrete evidence against you.
Breath test through a device that is connected to a computer and blood tests to determine BAC are obligatory, and are part of Virginia implied consent. If you refuse to take these tests you will stand to have your license suspended for up to a maximum of 12 months and will also have to pay hefty fines. But a positive test which shows a BAC above .07 can provide irrefutable evidence against you to lead to a permanent criminal conviction for a DUI.
Refusing tests and the ensuing outcome need to be evaluated against a possibly high BAC result. Use your discretion and proceed accordingly. By staying aware of your rights you can act in a manner that serves your best interest.
4) Do Not Indulge in Small Talk
Most drivers are nervous and stressed out by DUI stops, but ensure that you do not try to become friends with the officer who pulled you over.
Do not attempt to chit chat with the cops. Even the most innocuous statements can be contorted and used as evidence against you. Avoid divulging unnecessary information and do not give your contact information or any other details to the officer. Your license, auto insurance and car registration contain all necessary information and you do not have to furnish anything more.
If you are arrested exercise your right to stay silent till you are in touch with your DUI lawyer.
Drinking and driving never mix. Also the cost you pay for a moment of indiscretion can be painfully high. So it is always better to err on the side of caution, especially where alcohol and driving are considered. But also remember that you need not suffer the troubles that come with DUI after a drink at your office party. With good legal advice, common sense, awareness of your rights and discretion you can avoid criminal conviction altogether.
David B. Kelly is Marketing Manager at the renowned criminal defense law firm, Alexander Law Office, P.C.. The firm has over 21 years of experience in handling criminal matters, including reckless driving, traffic violations, personal injury, and DUI cases in Richmond, VA metropolitan area.
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