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Driving Under the Influence

Fairfax DUI Lawyer Explains DUI In Virginia

Reader's Note: This article gives a brief overview of DUI in Virginia. If you've been charged, call R. Tyler Bezilla for a free consultation. It's always better to have a lawyer talk over your case before making any decisions.

What is a DUI/DWI in Virginia?

In Virginia, there is no difference between DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). These charges, colloquially referred to as drunk driving, are codified under Virginia Code § 18.2-266. The consequences for a DUI in Virginia can include jail time, loss of your driver's license, a steep fine, court-ordered treatment, and other penalties that will substantially affect your life. Tyler Bezilla is a Fairfax DUI Lawyer who has handled thousands of DUI cases during his time as a prosecutor. If you need an experienced DUI Defense Attorney, call him today for a free consultation.

Not every DUI is the same. The punishments increase if this is a second or subsequent DUI, if you had a high BAC (Blood Alcohol Content), if you were in a crash, if you didn't have a license, or if someone was injured or killed. Each of these factors, and others, can increase the chances of a more serious punishment if you're convicted. That's why it's important to hire a skilled Fairfax DUI Lawyer to defend you.

A first offense DUI carries a punishment of up to 1 year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. Most courts in Virginia also mandate treatment through the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP). You can also lose your license on a first offense, but generally you are permitted a restricted license with ignition interlock (meaning you have to blow into a device when starting your car and intermittently while driving). That's not to say these are guaranteed punishments, but an experienced Fairfax DUI Lawyer can be the difference between a harsh punishment and a fair one. Don't gamble with your future. Call today and Mr. Tyler Bezilla will provide a free consultation to discuss your options.

Second or subsequent DUIs can carry what's called mandatory time, meaning the law requires you go to jail for a certain amount of time. The same possibility occurs when you have a high BAC. But again, these are not guarantees. A skilled Fairfax DUI Lawyer can negotiate with the Commonwealth to help you avoid jail time. Depending on the facts, there may be factual or legal defenses available to mitigate punishment or conviction as well.

What are the elements of DUI?

            The simple answer is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. But you may have questions from this description. What is operating? What if I'm just sleeping in my driver's seat? What does “under the influence” mean? Can I be charged if I'm on private property?  What if my BAC is below a .08? What if I had prescription drugs in my system? These are all answers an experienced Fairfax DUI Lawyer like Mr. Bezilla can provide. Let's take a closer look at these questions.

            First, we look to the statute: Virginia Code § 18.2-266 ( has the text of the law.

            Element #1:

                        It shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine, or train

            Element #2:

                        While such person:

  1. Has a BAC of .08

  2. “Is under the influence of alcohol”

  3. “Is under the influence of any narcotic drug or any other self-administered intoxicant or drug of whatsoever nature, or any combination of such drugs, to a degree which impairs his ability to drive”

  4. “Is under the combined influence of alcohol and any drug or drugs to a degree which impairs his ability to drive”

  5. Has a blood concentration of
    1. .02 mg Cocaine
    2. .1 mg Methamphetamine
    3. .01 mg Phencyclidine (PCP)
    4. .1 mg MDMA

To be found guilty of DUI in Virginia, the Commonwealth must prove both elements #1 and #2. This means that any of the possibilities listed in Element #2 can lead to a conviction. If you took prescription drugs and are found to be impaired, you can be charged with DUI. Remember, the law is designed to manage a large volume of issues that come up. There's no law that is individually tailored to your situation. That's why you need a skilled Fairfax DUI Lawyer to help you navigate your possible defenses.

The prosecutor is going to be in court with a dozen or more DUI cases in a day. If you don't have a good lawyer, they aren't going to take the time to see if your situation deserves a break. They may not catch a factual or legal issue. They are going to try to get the cases done as quickly as possible, because the caseload is so heavy. You don't want this to happen because every case is unique and every case requires individualized attention. You can call Mr. Tyler Bezilla today to discuss what makes your DUI unique.

Can I be found guilty of a DUI with only one drink?

Yes. While most people know the legal limit is a .08, in Virginia there are other ways to be found guilty of a DUI. Statutory law in Virginia says, “a person is under the influence of alcohol if he has drunk enough alcoholic beverages to so affect his manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance or behavior as to be apparent to observation.” Va. Code § 4.1-100. If you or someone you love is a “lightweight,” they can risk being charged with DUI for a single drink. And there's no reduced punishment for a one-drink DUI – you'll face the same consequences as someone who drank substantially more. But in these cases, there are defenses and mitigation to avoid harsh punishments. Call Mr. Tyler Bezilla today to speak with an experienced Fairfax DUI Lawyer.

Can I be charged with DUI for taking prescription drugs?

Yes. The law says a person “under the influence of any narcotic drug or any other self-administered intoxicant or drug of whatsoever nature” can be found guilty of DUI. A person who's under the influence of alcohol and a drug can be found guilty as well. There are times when someone is taking a new medicine and drives. If that medicine makes you impaired, you could be charged with DUI. If that medicine doesn't mix well with alcohol, you could also be charged with a DUI. This is terrifying to most people, who had no intention of committing a DUI. Even more frightening is the fact that the prosecutor may not take your individual circumstances into account. To them, you may just be a person in a police report who was swerving on the road.

But there are many defenses available to avoid a conviction or punishment, depending on your circumstances. There may also be significant mitigation that merits you getting a break. You need an experienced Fairfax DUI Lawyer to help you. Call Mr. Tyler Bezilla today to discuss your options.

Are there other situations in which I can be charged with DUI?

Absolutely. There are many facts that can result in a DUI charge or conviction. The reality is, there are probably thousands upon thousands of DUI cases in Virginia per month. As a prosecutor, it was common for Mr. Tyler Bezilla to have a dozen or more DUI cases on his docket every day. But just as there are many ways to be charged and convicted, there are also many ways to avoid conviction and avoid punishment. An experienced Fairfax DUI Lawyer can help you defend yourself. Call Mr. Tyler Bezilla today for a free consultation.

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