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Louisa, Virginia Criminal Defense & Traffic Law Blog

Breath tests for a DUI investigation could be flawed

For Virginians and people across the United States, there may be an automatic mental link between a drunk driving charge and a breath test. This is generally known to be a basic part of an investigation. After a law enforcement officer makes a traffic stop for a potential DUI, one of the foundational parts of the case will be the breath test. This is used to determine the blood-alcohol content of the driver and can be a significant piece of evidence as the case moves forward. Many, however, do not even consider the possibility that the test results could be inaccurate. Now, this issue is garnering scrutiny and could be part of a defense against DUI charges.

A New York Times investigation says that breath test devices are prone to inaccuracy and can be off by as much as 40%. The reporters came to their conclusions after discussing breath tests with law enforcement officers, scientists, lawyers and executives. The study determined that many people could have been convicted because of a testing device that was improperly calibrated, was not maintained as it should have been, or was used incorrectly. Often, police departments are not well-versed in maintaining these machines, are not vigilant about it, or use solutions that are home-brewed and tainted.

Causing injury in a drunk driving accident

Most Virginians have a basic understanding of the laws related to driving under the influence. A conviction for DUI will lead to various penalties, including the possibility of jail time, fines, a driver's license suspension and more. The circumstances and outcome of the DUI incident will also impact the charges.

If a person is injured by a drunk driver, the case will be assessed to determine if harsher penalties are warranted. This is the case when a person is accused of maiming another while driving drunk. If a person is unintentionally injured because a drunk driver was behaving grossly, wantonly or with reckless disregard for the lives of others, the driver will be charged with a Class 6 felony. A conviction for a Class 6 felony can result in one to five years in jail or a fine of $2,500, or both.

What should (and shouldn't) you do at a DUI checkpoint?

Driving into a DUI checkpoint is sure to raise your anxiety level. Even if you only had one drink, you'll have concerns about what's about to unfold. And if you've had multiple drinks, it's natural to wonder if you'll be put under arrest.

If you find yourself face-to-face with an officer at a DUI checkpoint, here are five things you need to avoid:

  • Open alcohol containers: With an open alcohol container in your vehicle, you give the officer reason to believe you're under the influence. While the open alcohol container law in Virginia doesn't apply to passengers, it still gives the officer reason to dig around.
  • Erratic driving: Changing lanes, stopping and starting, and driving slowly will tip off the officers at the DUI checkpoint. Rather than do this, slow down to a reasonable speed and move toward the officer just as you would a stop sign.
  • Talking back: It's easy to become upset if you're stopped at a DUI checkpoint. This is particularly true if the officer is disrespectful. But rather than talk back and explain your legal rights, take a deep breath and keep your cool. You don't want to give the officer another reason to learn more about your situation.
  • Saying too much: Provide the officer with the information they request, such as license and registration, while also answering basic questions. However, don't say too much about what's happening, as it may incriminate you.
  • Resisting arrest: Depending on what the officer finds, they may put you under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. This isn't the ideal situation, but don't let your emotions get the best of you. Remain calm, follow the procedure outlined by the officer and take mental notes as to everything that's happening. Resisting only makes things worse, as it can lead to additional criminal charges.

Driver charged with hit-and-run after hitting bicyclist

When there is an auto accident in Virginia, drivers are expected to remain at the scene and call for medical assistance if necessary. Some, however, will not do that. Whether it is because they are fearful of the aftermath or have other concerns, they might decide to flee. Once law enforcement discovers what happened, charges for a traffic violation can occur. People can face a variety of penalties for traffic offenses, and having a strong legal defense is important to avoid the worst of them.

An accident between a car and a bicycle injured a 50-year-old rider and led to the arrests of two people. According to the investigation, a 2002 Nissan Pathfinder hit the bicyclist and then fled. A short time later, the vehicle returned, with a woman driving.

What if I face a commercial driver DUI?

Commercial drivers in Virginia and across the U.S. have a responsibility to remain sober when they are on the road. Since they drive for a living, it can be problematic if they drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Law enforcement treats these violations seriously, and commercial drivers who are stopped and arrested for DUI must be cognizant of the enhanced penalties they will face if they are convicted.

For those who are arrested and charged with a first or second commercial DUI, it is wise to understand the law. A commercial driver convicted of DUI will face a minimum fine of $250. The blood-alcohol content will determine the length of the jail sentence. For those who have a BAC greater than 0.15 but less than 0.20, they will face a minimum of five days' incarceration. If their BAC is higher than 0.20, they will face a minimum of 10 days in jail.

Studies disagree: Is the violent crime rate up or down?

Is the violent crime rate rising? Recent reports in Virginia and nationwide came to widely different results.

In a report released earlier this year, Virginia State Police said the number of violent crimes fell 2% in 2018. For the purposes of the report, violent crimes were defined as homicide, forcible sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault. Homicides alone fell 14%. States vary widely in how they compile and report crime statistics, but many other states have reported similar drops.

Common defenses against DUI charges

Everyone who is accused of a crime deserves a defense, and that includes people who have been accused of drunk driving. With the help of a skilled defense lawyer, you can defend yourself against DUI charges, and protect your license, your freedom and your future.

There are many possible strategies for criminal defense. If you are accused of drunk driving, a defense lawyer will listen to your story and advise you on your best options for defense strategies, based upon the exact circumstances of your case and the particular charges against you.

5 things to do if you’re pulled over for DUI

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a mistake that puts you, as well as others on the road, at risk of serious injury or even death.

Despite the fact that drinking and driving is illegal, it's easy to make this mistake. If you find yourself pulled over for suspicion of DUI, there are several steps you should take:

  • Stay in your vehicle: Once you see police lights in your rearview mirror, put on your hazard lights, move to the side of the road and stay in your vehicle. Getting out will give the officer reason to believe that you're up to something.
  • Remain polite: This alone won't allow you to escape an arrest, but it can't hurt. Not to mention the fact that remaining polite and respectful helps prevent additional criminal charges.
  • Think before you speak: Your first thought is to say anything you can to defend yourself. However, there are times when you're better off invoking your 5th Amendment rights. Anything you say during the traffic stop and arrest can be used against you in the court of law.
  • Don't make up a story: "I only had one drink five hours ago." "I am on my way to church, not the bar." A story that's obviously false will only anger the office and make it look like you're trying to hide something. Stick to the facts, while avoiding saying anything that will incriminate you.
  • Don't resist arrest: If you're put under arrest, resisting won't do you any good. The officer won't change their mind just because you're fighting back. Rather than resist, cooperate during the arrest and during your time at the police station.

Defense against traffic offense charges

Many Virginians may feel that a traffic offense is little more than an inconvenience, but in fact it can be a lot worse. A traffic offense can stay on a driver's license record for years, and any subsequent offense can lead to much harsher penalties.

Worse still is a charge of reckless driving. While some offenses may result in no more than a traffic ticket, reckless driving is criminal charge that can carry a penalty of a year in jail and a fine of $2,500.

Convenience store shooting highlights issue of self-defense

A fatal shooting in Virginia last month has put a spotlight on the issue of self-defense.

The shooting occurred July 25 at a convenience store in Virginia Beach. According to news reports, several men were robbing the store when a bystander pulled out a legally concealed gun and fired, killing one of the men and wounding another. Two men have been charged in connection with the attempted robbery. The commonwealth's attorney said it will not file charges against the shooter.

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