In Virginia, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) are serious offenses. Drivers under age 21 who are caught operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs face mandatory minimum fines and the loss of driving privileges, which can impact your ability to work or attend school. If you have been charged with an Under 21 DUI in Virginia, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at S.L. England, PLLC.
BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT
Although some high school and college students drink alcohol, Virginia law is clear that it is illegal for anyone under age 21 to operate a motor vehicle while they have any amount of alcohol in their system. While a person over age 21 can have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 percent to legally drive, a person under age 21 can only have a BAC of 0.02 percent before they can be charged with DUI.
PENALTIES FOR UNDER 21 DUI
Immediately upon your arrest for an Under 21 DUI, or if you unreasonably refuse to take a breath test, your driver’s license is administratively suspended for seven days.
An Under 21 DUI is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. If convicted, you will lose your driving privileges for one year and pay a mandatory minimum fine of $500 or perform 50 hours of community service. You will have six demerit points added to your Virginia driving record.
The judge has the discretion to grant you a restricted driver’s license, which allows you to drive to authorized places at designated times. You must be enrolled in an Alcohol Safety Action Program to get a restricted license.
Virginia has an Implied Consent law, meaning that if you choose to operate a motor vehicle, you have given your consent for law enforcement to take a breath or blood sample from you if they have probable cause to do so.
Failure to provide a sample results in a one-year driver’s license suspension for a first offense and you lose your ability to apply for a restricted license. For a second offense within a 10 year period, this becomes a Class 1 Misdemeanor. These charges are separate from your Under 21 DUI.
DEFENSES TO VIRGINIA DUI CHARGES
Each Under 21 DUI case is different, and an experienced attorney can craft a defense that best fits your situation. Being charged with Under 21 DUI does not mean you are guilty.
CHALLENGING THE BASIS OF THE STOP
A Virginia law enforcement officer cannot stop your vehicle unless they have reasonable suspicion that you have violated a law. You could be stopped for a minor traffic offense, such as having expired registration or an equipment violation, or you could show signs of impairment such as weaving, speeding, driving too slow, or sitting at a green traffic light.
Many Virginia law enforcement vehicles are equipped with dash cameras. Your attorney will review any videos from the traffic stop to determine if the officer had a valid reason to stop your vehicle. If the reason for the initial traffic stop is invalid, then any evidence resulting from that stop must be suppressed. This can lead to a reduction or dismissal of the charges against you.
CHALLENGING THE TEST RESULTS
Law enforcement officers must follow strict collection, testing, and chain of custody procedures with any breath or blood samples you provide. Your attorney can challenge the collection method used to obtain your sample, the instrumentation used to test your sample, or the chain of custody. Any failure to follow exact procedures could result in your sample becoming contaminated, in which case your sample would not yield a legally sufficient test result.
MOUTH ALCOHOL TESTING
If you take a breath test, the Breathalyzer may register mouth alcohol even though you did not drink an alcoholic beverage. Sources of mouth alcohol include mouthwash or some asthma medications. If you suffer from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), you could get a false positive on a breath test.
Breathalyzers test alveolar or deep lung air for alcohol content, but if the law enforcement officer does not observe the 15 minute waiting period before administering the test, your result could be tainted by mouth alcohol.
CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED VIRGINIA UNDER 21 DUI ATTORNEY
Although an Under 21 DUI does not carry any jail time, if convicted, you could lose your driver’s license, which has a significant impact on your future. Your finances could suffer if you are unable to drive to work, and you could lose your opportunity for higher education if you are unable to drive to school. These penalties should not be taken lightly.
If you have been charged with an Under 21 DUI in Virginia or Washington, D.C., you need a dedicated attorney from S.L. England, PLLC, to build an aggressive defense for you. Call us today at (202) 489-0720 or contact us online.