A conviction for a first DUI in Fairfax County will result in harsh punishments with penalties depending on the case details. The Virginia Legislature is always updating DUI laws and imposing tougher penalties. There is a ton of pressure for the police and prosecutors to pursue DUI convictions due to the inherent danger involved. Even for a first offense DUI hiring a lawyer is incredibly important so you can fight for your case. You want to minimize the punishments for a DUI as much as you can for your quality of life. We appear in the Fairfax County General District Court, Fairfax City General District Court, Town of Vienna Court, and Town of Herndon Courts and will help you fight for your case. Please review the information below and feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation to discuss your DUI case.
Looking at the Penalties in Fairfax County for a First Offense DUI
When you are convicted of a DUI in Fairfax County there are certain statutory penalties. This means that, no matter what, there are punishments that essentially have to happen. The Judges have very little discretion with DUIs and preside over the case to determine guilt or innocence and that is all. Prosecutors on the other hand do have discretion so it is important to be prepared for court. Hiring a good DUI lawyer is important because we will prepare you for court and make your case look as good as possible. We want you to be in the best position possible during our initial negotiations with the prosecutor. This stage of the DUI proceedings is important because we may be able to avoid trial and achieve a favorable outcome simply by reaching an agreement with the prosecutor. The best part of this stage is if we don't like what we are being offered by plea agreement we can still go to trial to try to avoid a DUI conviction.
A first-offense DUI is a Class 1 Misdemeanor pursuant to Virginia Code §18.2-270. The Judge has the discretion to sentence an individual to 12 months in jail, suspend the privilege to drive for 12 months, and impose a $2500 fine, among other penalties. However, the good news is Judges rarely impose such a lengthy jail sentence for a first-offense DUI in Fairfax County.
Punishment for Blood-Alcohol Level .08 to .14 in Fairfax County
In most cases, the penalties for a first-offense DUI are harsh but not crippling. Upon conviction for a first-offense DUI you can expect the following penalties in Fairfax County (in general):
- Suspended Jail Time
- It should be noted there is a mandatory 5-day jail sentence in DUI cases where there was a minor child in the vehicle.
- 12-month loss of privilege to drive in Virginia
- A restricted license will be permitted in many cases so you can still drive anywhere you need provided you have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle
- Ignition Interlock for up to 12 months
- ASAP (Alcohol Safety Action Program)
- $250 fine
It is important to note that any suspended jail time you receive will be predicated on completing ASAP, having no positive alcohol readings on the ignition interlock device, and being of good behavior. Any failure to follow the rules can result in the Judge imposing the suspended jail time later into active jail.
Punishment for Blood-Alcohol Level .15 to .20 in Fairfax County
The penalties for for having a high blood-alcohol level are more severe. If you are convicted of a DUI with an elevated blood-alcohol level you will have the same punishments as if you had a lower blood-alcohol level with a few additional penalties:
- Mandatory 5 days in jail to serve with additional suspended jail time
- If a Judge allows a restricted license there will be more restrictions on driving
- You can expect to have the ignition interlock device in your vehicle for the full 12 months
When we have cases involving an elevated blood-alcohol level, most of our preparation turns on negotiating for a lower blood-alcohol level to avoid the additional penalties. While our client may ultimately be convicted of a DUI, they won't have to serve active jail time. This, of course, is many of our clients' main concern.
Punishment for Blood-Alcohol Level .21 and Above in Fairfax County
Sometimes people have the unfortunate luck of being arrested and are found to have a very high blood-alcohol level. This happens a lot in blood cases where there was a blood draw instead of a breathalyzer. In these cases, there are more penalties in addition to those noted above:
- Mandatory 10 days in jail to serve with additional suspended jail time
- A Judge is unlikely to issue a restricted license until they have proof that the individual has enrolled in ASAP
In the very high blood-alcohol level cases, we will generally have our clients participate in pretrial counseling so we can show proof that any alcohol issues have been addressed. We do this to allay any concerns that the prosecutor may have that our client has an alcohol dependency. This also helps us work towards minimizing the jail time and getting a Judge to issue a restricted license so our client can still drive to work and earn a living.
The "Wet Reckless" in Fairfax County
In some cases, an agreement can be reached with the prosecutor for a reduction of the DUI to reckless driving. Sometimes there is a visible weakness or defense in the case or the blood-alcohol level is relatively low and a reduction of the charge is appropriate. In many cases a "wet reckless" is a great outcome because the penalties are less severe. First and foremost, many DUIs reduced to reckless driving do not require ignition interlock. In addition, there is a 6-month loss of privilege to drive (versus 12-months with a DUI conviction) and a restricted license is usually permitted. Finally, there is no conviction for a DUI but for a reckless driving which can be a big difference when it comes to a criminal record and driving record. However, whether a "wet reckless" in Fairfax County is ultimately appropriate or even a good outcome will depend on the facts of the case.
Avoiding Punishment for a DUI
The best way to avoid the penalties associated with a DUI conviction is to hire a DUI lawyer. Every case is different because some DUI cases can be outright dismissed while other cases reduced. Some DUI cases are more about damage control with the goal being to simply minimize the damage. In any case, preparation is key and hiring a Fairfax County DUI Lawyer is the most important thing you can do.