Should I Hire an Attorney for My First DUI Offense?
The consequences of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Virginia are severe. Besides endangering yourself and others, a DUI charge could cost you time, money, legal privileges, your reputation in the community, and possibly your career. However, your first (and hopefully your only) DUI offense does not need to ruin your life. There may be defenses and options available to you. Hiring an experienced DUI defense attorney gives you a personal advocate that knows the ins and outs of the law and the court system.
Virginia DUI Penalties
A first DUI offense is a class 1 misdemeanor and an extremely common offense. (About 17,000 people are arrested for driving under the influence in Virginia every year.) For this reason, some people do not understand the seriousness of the charges they are facing. Many will choose not to incur the expense of hiring an attorney and simply plead guilty to the charges. Others will ask for a public defender. However, a court-appointed attorney is only available to those who can prove their indigence and are facing a real possibility of jail time.
For a first-time DUI offender, the minimum penalties are typically:
- A mandatory fine of at least $250. A judge may increase your fine depending on the circumstances of your case.
- One-year revocation of your driver’s license. You may be allowed restricted driving privileges during this time if you agree to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle.
- Participation in an Alcohol Safety Action Program. Some counties require additional education programs, such as a Victim Impact Panel.
Keep in mind these are the minimum penalties for a first DUI offense. There are several other factors that may lend you a harsher sentence. A first DUI offense could land you in jail for up to a year and a fine up to $2,500.
Additional and Aggravating Circumstances
The circumstances of your case will determine if you should face stronger penalties. For example, if your blood alcohol content was 0.15 or higher, you will face a minimum 5-day jail sentence. If your BAC level was higher than 0.20, the mandatory jail sentence increases to a minimum of 10 days. Drunk driving with a child in the car will earn you at least a $500 fine and 5 days in jail.
Penalties for driving under the influence are more serious when combined with other charges, such as reckless driving or causing an injury accident. If your blood alcohol content was at least double the legal limit, or if you are facing any aggravated or additional charges associated with your DUI, it is especially important to seek legal counsel.
Leesburg VA DUI Attorneys
If you are arrested for DUI or DWI in Virginia, you should contact a DUI defense lawyer right away. Speaking with an experienced DUI attorney could make a big difference in the outcome of your case. The attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC provide legal assistance in northern Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, and the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. We are committed to fighting for a fair and just outcome for your case.