A Brief Timeline Of The DUI Process In Virginia
Not all DUI cases are the same, but in general what our experience has shown is that DUI arrests start in the same manner. A person is pulled over for some type of traffic infraction, whether it is a licensing or registration infraction, expired tags or window tint that is too dark. Once a person is pulled over generally the officer will approach the driver’s side of a car and ask for general information such as driver’s license and registration. What we typically see is that once the information is run, the officer will then begin a line of inquiry into drinking or drugs.
These conversations are consensual. People do not have to answer these questions, but what we see is most times folks do, which typically leads to the officer asking the person to step out of the car to perform what we call the standard field sobriety tests. In most Northern Virginia jurisdictions, law enforcement officers are trained at the same academy and they learn the standardized National Highway Safety Traffic Administration Field Sobriety Tests which include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, the 9 step walk and turn and the one leg stand.
There are also other field sobriety tests that are unique to particular jurisdictions such as what is called the finger dexterity test which includes counting from one through four on your fingers and then backwards four through one in a series of three. We also see other tests such as asking a person to repeat portions of the alphabet starting at an arbitrary letter such as G and ending at another arbitrary letter such as Q. Also, repeating numbers forward and reverse, say from an arbitrary start point of 44 to an arbitrary endpoint of 22.
From there, typically an officer will ask a person to blow for a preliminary breath test. Most times this comes with some commentary from the officer that this is voluntary and that it can “help” the person tonight. If you just blow in this and if you blow under a certain number, they are receiving assurances from the officer that they will be released and on their way. These tests are voluntary and people can politely decline them. The unfortunate aspect is that in the preliminary breath test, when the client blows, they have no idea what the results are going to be and these tests are not calibrated or maintained in any manner such as the breath tests that are maintained in police stations.
Therefore you are putting your liberty in the hands of an electronic device that could have been in an officer’s car all day at a hundred degree temperature or below freezing. After a person is arrested for a DUI, they are taken to a police station for a breath test or a hospital for a blood test depending on the circumstances. Again, both these tests, you can politely refuse. A refusal will result in an additional civil violation charge of refusal. However the penalty for that is only a twelve month suspension of your driver’s license. After the police have gathered enough information and administered their required battery of tests, you will be taken before a magistrate for a bond determination.
If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence at your first court appearance arraignment will follow. It is typically going to happen on the day after you were arrested if you were detained. In some jurisdictions, you will be taken over to the courthouse for your arraignment, in other jurisdictions; you will be released and given a court date to appear in court. At the arraignment there will be a short court hearing where the judge will read the charges to you, advise you of your right to hire an attorney or inquire if you want to have an attorney appointed to you.
Often times you will see that they will not ask you how you will plead, but in most jurisdictions, it is assumed that you will enter a plea of not guilty and then from there your case will be set up for a trial date and your future hearings will proceed from there, such as your preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions and the actual trial.
What Are The Driver’s License Consequences Associated With DUI Charges In Virginia?
When you are arrested for a DUI, your physical license is taken by the officer if you have a Virginia driver’s license. There is an administrative seven day suspension of your privilege to drive, which means seven days from your arrest, you are not allowed to drive a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth of Virginia. That is an administrative suspension imposed by the Virginia DMV and at the expiration of those seven days, typically the clerk of the jurisdiction in which your DUI case is pending will mail your driver’s license to the address listed on the front of the driver’s license if you do not pick it up on the seventh day.
If you have an out of state driver’s license in most jurisdictions of Northern Virginia, the license will not be taken. However, your privilege to drive in the Commonwealth of Virginia may still be administratively suspended by the Virginia DMV. You can petition the court for a restricted license based on special circumstances that are outlined in the code, but you will most likely need to hire an attorney to file motions on your behalf and argue before the appropriate district court judge.
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