The annual traffic enforcement assault in Virginia known as Operation Land, Sea, and Air resulted in 6000 traffic and criminal citations being recorded.
Virginia State police have announced increased police patrols and presence on the highways from now until the end of the holiday weekend.
Accomack County has been considering imposing stiff extra fees on anyone convicted of a DUI or reckless driving charge in the county.
A final decision on the $350 extra fee has been postponed for now, but it is still on the table, according to delmarvanow.com.
County officials are in favor of the extra fee for DUI charges and suspended license cases, but are split for reckless driving offenses. The county supervisor opposes the fee in reckless cases only, while the County Sheriff supports all the fees. The proposed fee to be used to offset expenses to police and rescue personnel, no doubt to cover budget shortfalls.
Virginia went down this road before with it’s statewide “abusive driver fees” for reckless driving. The fee was wildly unpopular and repealed a year later.
Brice Smith pled guilty to one count of DUI in a Virginia Beach courtroom this past week. He was arrested last May after failing field sobriety tests and refusing a breathalyzer. This marks the famed defensive end’s 3rd DUI charge.
While Smith denied drinking on the night of his arrest, he later admitted that he was under the influence according to this Football News Now report. The arrest occurred after he had been drinking wine with friends in Norfolk.
Under the terms of his case he received a $1,000 fine, a one year driver’s license suspension, an alcohol safety class, and a 90 day suspended sentence. A “suspended” jail sentence simply means
that if Smith is rearrested at anytime during his probationary term, the 90 day sentence could be activated and he could be required to spend time in jail.
According to the article from Football News Now, Smith’s first DUI case was dismissed and he was acquitted, or found not guilty, the second time he was arrested for the offense. It seems as if, with his third arrest, Smith’s luck had run out.
Although this wasn’t Smith’s first arrest, the result of his prior DUI cases mean this one was treated as his first. If he had been convicted or pled guilty the last two times, he would have been facing a much more stringent sentence this time around.
For a third offense DUI you are required to serve a minimum of 3 months in jail if convicted.
Also worth noting is the effect his refusal to take a breath test may have had on his case. If you refuse a breath test and are later found to have been under the influence, you will lose your license for one year.
When facing charges of DUI, whether this is your first offense or your fourth, we can help. We understand you want the best results possible and will pull out all the stops to ensure that happens.
From challenging the stop to the breath test results, we will leave no stone unturned when it comes to fighting on your behalf. Contact our lawyers today to discuss the details of your case.
Interesting series of reports in the Chesterfield Observer on Virginia drunk driving arrests, the court process, penalties, legal strategies used by prosectutors and defense attorneys, and the implications of the Melendez-Diaz decision.
An Update on the Previous Melendez-Diaz post:
Forensics blogger Harold Levy notes an interesting comment buried in the News Record article. One delegate suggested that this decision will create some better deals for defendants, and may result in increased use of alternate court dispositions that stress treatment.
Drug courts and DUI courts are alternative sentencing arrangements that can give a first time offender a chance to have a case dismissed after a year. If he or she completes a strict drug or alcohol treatment program, and passes mandatory drug tests or abstains from alcohol, the charged are dropped.
Currently Drug Courts in Virginia are still being used on a largely limited basis. A list of drug courts is here. Currently there is only one DUI court in Virginia, in Fredericksburg. Not all courts have drug court alternatives as an option, and not all prosecutors and judges will go along with it in every eligible case, even if it is available.
And there are downsides to accepting a drug or DUI court disposition. If you fail to complete the program, you are subject to retrial in court, and will likely face much stricter penalties than if you simply plead guilty the first time through.
But for those who complete the program, it is often a very good deal from a criminal defense perspective. And it is a good opportunity to get help with an addition problem. The research on drug courts has shown a lot of success.
It would be a shame if it took prosecutors backed into a corner to increase the use of these well-documented successful programs, that reduce recidivism, decrease the need for costly imprisonment, and truly help Virginia citizens fix their addiction problems and their lives.
Once Again, Intoxilyzers are Under Fire
In court battles played out across the country, breathalyzer tests are used again and again to send people to jail, take away their driving privileges, and impose huge fines. More and more, however, we are learning that these little machines shouldn’t have the final say.
According to The Newspaper, in Fairfax County recently a defense attorney brought the commonly used Intoxilyzer 5000 to the attention of the court for its potential malfunctions and unreliability. When counties use machines that are nearly ten years old, there is a good chance that parts have been replaced.
In the particular machine involved in this case, the chopper motor had been replaced. While replacing car parts might not be a big deal, parts in different breathalyzers aren’t as easily substituted. A new chopper motor can throw off the reliability of the whole machine.
Interestingly the manufacture of the Intoxilyzer has up until this point refused to reveal the source code used in programming the machines. They contend it is a “trade secret”, making a further mess of many DUI convictions and trials. Without knowing for certain how effective these ancient machines are we continue to send people through the justice system that may be otherwise acquitted.
The Farifax County judge agreed to allow tests to be ran on the machine to prove effectiveness. Before this could happen, however, the prosecutor offered the defendant a sweet plea agreement allowing him to keep his license and avoid jail time.
One of these days the veil of secrecy surrounding these machines will be dropped and it is likely that some will be surprised at the rate of errors. Until that time, when facing DUI charges involving a breathalyzer test, an experienced DUI defense attorney is the key to getting the best possible results.
According to an article in the Virginian-Pilot, Virginia Beach accounts for 9% of the state’s DUI arrests, with only 6% of the population. The raw numbers are: 2321 arrests for DUI in Virginia Beach last year, which is nearly twice as many drunk driving arrests made by officers in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Portsmouth combined.
Officers attribute these facts to the “party atmosphere” in the city, particularly in the Oceanfront area with many bars.
Of course, just because more people are arrested for DUI in Virginia Beach doesn’t mean that the actual incidences of drunk driving are necessarily higher. A significant factor could be more aggressive patrols and enforcement. It’s entirely likely that more people who drive while intoxicated in Virginia Beach are pulled over and prosecuted then in other parts of the state.
The Virginia Beach police department has a dedicated DUI enforcement team, and those officers receive an additional 40 hours of training specific to DUI arrests, which includes spotting potential impaired drivers, field sobriety test administration, and breath test machine operation.
If you are arrested on a DUI charge in Virginia Beach, please contact us for a free case evaluation and defense consultation. There are always options to defend your rights and work to protect your driver’s license.
Virginia DUI laws for those under 21 are about to change. As of July 1, 2008, the “baby DUI” law penalties will become much stricter.
Under this new law, the penalty for any measurable alcohol in your system (.02% BAC) if you are under the legal drinking age in Virginia (21) will result in a 1 year license suspension, and either a minimum $500 fine, or a minimum of 50 hours of community service to be performed.
This is categorized as a Class 1 Misdemeanor, the same as an over 21 Virginia DUI (with .08% BAC).
If you’ve been arrested and charge with a DUI in Virginia, please contact our experienced criminal defense & DUI attorneys. Our local attorneys know the courts ,the law, and can help you challenge the courts. We look for every opportunity to beat your DUI charge, but we are also realistic and will fight for the best plea deal allowed by law, if that is in your best interests. Contact us for a free legal defense consultation and case evaluation.