Chesterfield First-Offense DUI Lawyer

When you get charged with intoxicated driving, it is a serious matter. While the legal system may apply some level of leniency to first-time offenders who did not cause harm, there are still some notable consequences you should be aware of. A Chesterfield first-offense DUI lawyer could help you through the process. These cases must be defended with care, which is why you should have a committed DUI attorney help you out.

Where Are DUI Charges in Chesterfield County Heard?

First-time DUI charges in Chesterfield County are typically heard in the General District Court. On the trial date, the defendant will be found guilty or not guilty – and if they are found guilty, they have a right to appeal that charge to the circuit court for another trial with either a jury or a judge.

How Does the Prosecutor Handle First-Time DUI Charges?

How prosecutors decide to handle first-time DUIs is going to depend on whether or not they have an escalator that increases the seriousness of the matter. If they have a DUI that was between 0.08 and 0.14, there is a typical punishment that the Commonwealth’s attorney has in mind as a baseline. If they blow 0.15 to 0.19, the code requires a five-day mandatory minimum sentence.

If they blow above 0.20, it is another five-day mandatory minimum. But if they were just over the legal limit and they cooperated with the officer and took the tests, there is usually a recommended baseline.

If they blew above a 0.14 or they were belligerent, those escalators can add additional jail time unless they show a good reason as to why those extra days should not be added to their charge.

Court’s Response to First-Time Charges

Judges treat first-time offenses seriously because one simple accident could take someone’s life, no matter how careful someone has been in the past. However, judges may consider certain factors, such as:

  • Defendant’s age
  • Lack of prior criminal history
  • Good driving record
  • Where the defendant works
  • Whether the defendant is in school
  • Whether the defendant is in the military

For a first-time DUI, the only time someone can get a jury is if they appeal the case. However, chesterfield first-offense DUI attorneys have found that it is common for juries to dole out harsher punishments than a judge does. Jury members do not see these cases every day or know how a range of behaviors should be treated. Appealing a case to a jury is generally only pursued if the defendant believes malfunctioning testing equipment or other errors led to their judgment.

Building a Defense for a DUI Charge

A first-offense DUI lawyer in Chesterfield should first look to see if the stop was legal and if an officer had a valid reason to pull over a vehicle. If this occurred at a checkpoint, the validity of the checkpoint could also be discussed. Next, they will examine whether the field sobriety and breathalyzer tests were administered correctly. If these examinations do not pass muster, they could attempt to get the case dismissed, regardless of what occurred later. The officer’s credibility could be called into question.

The biggest mistake that drivers make during their first DUI offense is to talk. Drivers want to explain the situation in the hopes of avoiding trouble but more often than not they are just digging themselves into a hole. It is best to follow an officer’s instructions and remain polite, and to follow a lawyer’s advice when in front of a judge.

Penalties and Diversion Programs

The maximum penalty for a first offense is a $2,500 fine, 12 months in jail, and the loss of license. The usual penalty is usually around a $500 fine, or $2,500 with suspended jail time, or to join the Virginia Substance Abuse Program (VASAP), with ignition interlock on their vehicle. They will also get a restricted license for one year to allow them to do certain things like go to work, appointments, VASAP, and take kids to school.

Usually, first-time offenders will be offered any kind of diversion or probation programs on DUI. If the offender suggests their own private facility that can address their substance abuse problem, they may be able to work with that instead.

Learn How to Respond with a Chesterfield County First-Offense DUI Attorney

Your first DUI is not the end of the world but you must tread carefully in order to limit the penalty. A Chesterfield first-offense DUI lawyer could advocate for you in court. Reach out today for a consultation.