Three reasons Virginia drivers should hire a lawyer after a DUI arrest

Although some who have been arrested on suspicion of DUI may choose to act on their own behalf, there are numerous benefits to hiring a lawyer.

According to the Virginia Department of State Police, there were 20,197 driving under the influence arrests across the state in 2016 alone. Especially when it is their first offense, many who find themselves charged with drunk driving underestimate the severity of the situation and potential repercussions. Consequently, they may choose not to work with a lawyer. Due to the seriousness with which alcohol-related charges are prosecuted and punished, however, there are several reasons why it may benefit those who have been arrested for DUI to obtain legal counsel.

Understanding the charges

Most people are aware they may be arrested for driving under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration exceeds 0.08 percent. However, there are numerous other factors that may contribute to the level and offense people are charged with in such cases, including their age, their prior arrest record and whether they are driving a commercial vehicle. Additionally, there are circumstances under which people may arrested for drunk driving, despite having a BAC level below the legal limit.

Those unfamiliar with alcohol-related offenses and the associated aggravating factors in Virginia may struggle to determine if they have been appropriately charged. Lawyers who focus their practice on DUI defense, on the other hand, generally have a thorough knowledge of the laws, charges and related legal procedures. This may aid them in making certain their clients' rights are not infringed upon. Further, they may draw on their experience to help negotiate for lesser or reduced offenses when the situation allows.

Challenging the evidence

Law enforcement officers' reports and people's performance on field sobriety tests often serve as evidence in DUI cases. However, such observations may only carry so much weight. Thus, the crux of many drunk driving arrests are the breath test results. Should people's readings show a BAC level of 0.08 percent or higher, many mistakenly believe their fates are sealed and resign themselves to the potential penalties.

There are numerous factors that may affect how people perform on roadside tests, as well as the results of breath tests. These include drowsiness or fatigue, certain medical conditions, substances in the air at the time of testing and even drivers' diets. In addition to being familiar with these factors, DUI attorneys may recognize how best to present this information to judges and juries. They may utilize this knowledge and experience to call evidence into question, or to see it thrown out entirely.

Dealing with the potential consequences

Virginia state law specifies mandatory minimum and maximum penalties for those who plead guilty to or are found guilty of DUI. For example, a first-time drunk driving conviction carries a fine of at least $250, a one-year drivers' license revocation and required installation of an ignition interlock device. Their exact sentence, however, may be affected by various factors, such as their prior record, their BAC level and whether an accident occurred as a result of their alleged intoxication. Between the sentencing minimums and maximums, there may be room to negotiate for less severe and intrusive consequences. Aware of all the sentencing options, drunk driving lawyers may seek to limit the potential implications of their clients' arrests.

For people throughout the state of Virginia, a drunk driving arrest may significantly affect their personal and professional lives. Therefore, it may benefit those facing alcohol-related offenses to seek legal assistance. An attorney may guide them through the process, looking out for their interests at every stage.