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Everyone makes mistakes. You made a mistake while behind the wheel. Whether that’s driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or reckless driving, just because you were arrested, doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted. The prosecution has the burden of proof and there may be a number of defenses that can result in charges being dismissed or substantially reduced as part of a plea bargain agreement.
When driving in Virginia you are considered to be driving or operating under the influence (DUI) if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. You may also be considered under the influence if the BAC is lower if the officer decides your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired or you’re a commercial driver or younger than 21. You could also be arrested if your driving is impacted by the fact you’re under the influence of any drug, legal or illegal, and you could face the same penalties as if you were under the influence of alcohol.
A DUI arrest often occurs after a police officer pulls over a vehicle and gives the driver field sobriety tests to determine if the driver’s actually impaired. These tests are highly subjective and your performance can be impacted by a number of things, including the stress of the situation. Depending on what the officer believes, he or she may or may not ask you to take a breathalyzer test to measure your blood alcohol content.
If you’re convicted and it’s your first DUI, you’ve committed a Class 1 misdemeanor, which will be reflected on your criminal record. Given that record, it can impact your ability to be hired for future jobs and cause your car insurance to be dropped or your premiums to increase. You would be required to install an ignition interlock device on the vehicles you own or intend to drive, pay a fine from $250 to $2,500 dollars and have your license suspended for a year. Penalties increase if you’ve had more than one conviction or your BAC was 0.15% or higher.
Under Virginia law, a reckless driving is driving a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. Specific actions that can result in a reckless driving charge include passing another vehicle in unsafe conditions, exceeding the posted speed limit by at least twenty miles per hour or driving in excess of eighty miles per hour, racing another vehicle or entering a high-occupancy toll lane by crossing a barrier, buffer or other separators.
Reckless driving is also a Class 1 misdemeanor, so the potential sentence could up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Your license may also be suspended for up to six months and you can expect your insurance to be dropped or your rates to increase. If a judge decides in your case the “degree of culpability is slight” the charged can be reduced to “improper driving” which is a traffic infraction that carries a fine of up to $500 but there would be no jail time.
In Virginia, if you’re charged with DUI, you may be able to negotiate a plea bargain for the lesser charge of reckless driving, known as “wet reckless.” Situations, where this occurs, are often if it’s a first time arrest, it may be difficult for the prosecution to prove the BAC level or there are no aggravating factors like an accident. The court can order you to complete an “alcohol safety action program” as a condition of probation.
DUI and reckless driving are crimes under Virginia law, not traffic infractions. They need to be taken seriously. If you’ve been arrested for either crime, you need to discuss the situation with a Virginia Beach DUI / reckless driving lawyer to see if defenses may apply and how you may be able to get the charges reduced. Handling your own defense could mean a much tougher outcome for you, your family and your finances.
If you have questions about DUI or reckless driving charges and live in the Virginia Beach area, call Abrons, Chiusano & Sceviour at (757) 644-6789 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation today.