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Lynchburg Criminal Defense Blog

What are factors that affect DUI penalties?

Virginia is known for having strict drunk driving laws. However, there are a range of fines and jail time depending on the facts of your situation. The Virginia DMV provides information on how different factors affect potential DUI penalties.

One important variable is the number of offenses you have had. The more convictions in your history, generally, the harsher the punishment. The length of time between offenses is relevant as well. For instance, conviction for a second offense in 10 years results in 10 days of jail time, whereas a second offense within five years carries 20 days in jail.

Things to do if you’re pulled over for suspicion of DUI

If a police officer has reason to believe you're driving under the influence of alcohol, they're likely to take immediate action by pulling your vehicle to the side of the road.

As scary as it may be, there are steps you can take at this time to hopefully avoid an arrest. Here's what you should do:

  • Pull over as soon as possible: Once you see lights in your rearview mirror, slow down, put on your hazard lights and find a safe place to pull over. If you're on the highway, the shoulder of the road is your best option. In the city, search for a parking lot to pull into.
  • Remain in your vehicle: Once you stop, don't get out of your vehicle to talk to the officer. Instead, put your hands on the wheel and wait for the officer to arrive at your window. At that point, follow directions. The officer is likely to ask for your license and registration.
  • Be polite: Regardless of your condition, remain polite and respectful at all times. Arguing with the officer or talking back will only make things worse, even if you're not under the influence of alcohol.
  • Remain quiet: You don't have to answer every question asked of you, thanks to your 5th Amendment rights. If you don't understand a question, for example, let the officer know that you'd rather not answer.
  • Don't say too much: For instance, you may be tempted to make up a lie or tell the officer that you only had one drink. The more you expand on your story, the more likely you are to say something suspicious. It's better to remain quiet than it is to babble.

What is a driver alcohol detection system?

If you have a history of drunk driving conviction in Virginia, or know someone who does, you may already be familiar with an ignition interlock device. This is an in-vehicle breathalyzer that requires you to provide a breath sample before driving and prevents you from starting the car if your blood alcohol results are above a predetermined benchmark. When discussing IIDs as a preventative measure for drunk driving, proponents frequently give the caveat that they are effective as long as the driver is compliant. 

According to ABC 13 News, a new technology called the Driver Alcohol Detection System is currently in development that would not rely on driver compliance to prevent drunk driving. A charter bus company in Virginia is installing the DADSS system on all its vehicles in the interest of gathering data, making it the first time the system is in use under actual road conditions. The Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety hopes to install the system in all new vehicles in the United States by 2024. 

The differences between burglary and robbery

In Virginia, burglary and robbery are legally considered to be two different crimes. They are handled in unique ways, have separate requirements in order for a person to be accused of them, and will result in their own penalties if an individual is convicted. But what exactly are those differences?

FindLaw explains that burglary is primarily defined as the unlawful entering of someone else's property, whether or not they are present at the time of the invasion. No physical breaking or entering of the property is required either. A person may simply walk through an open door or climb through an unlocked window, and it will still count as burglary. Additionally, one needs only have the intent to steal something; they do not necessarily need to have been successful.

Know the facts about insurance fraud

When Virginia residents think about fraud, they may often consider credit cards and identity theft. However, people also commit fraud when they fabricate insurance claims. There are many ways someone might commit fraud through insurance and it is important for people to understand what this kind of white-collar crime consists of.

Insurance fraud can come in many forms. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, some people may commit this type of fraud after a natural disaster. People may file a claim with their insurance company but include false information so it sounds like their home incurred a significant amount of damage when this is not the case. Additionally, people may sell insurance but lack the proper license. In this situation, fraud occurs because the person selling the insurance typically does not pay out claims but keeps the premiums. Insurance fraud can happen with many different kinds of insurance, including homeowner's, workers' compensation and health insurance. In many situations, people might commit this type of fraud by stealing insurance premiums.

What should you do if you're facing domestic assault charges?

Virginian residents like you can have your entire world turned upside down by the accusation of domestic assault or violence. Because of the long-lasting consequences these accusations can have and the huge toll it may take on your life if you are convicted, you should know what to do if facing such charges.

First, FindLaw examines the definition of domestic violence, which is an umbrella term that covers numerous different situations. Categories of abuse that domestic violence can occur in include:

  • Emotional and mental
  • Sexual
  • Physical
  • Economic

Could you get kicked out of school for a conviction?

Every school is different when it comes to criminal charges that students face. In general, Deans' offices could put you on some type of warning or expel you from school, depending on the severity of the charge. You should probably check with the relevant college guidelines to see what might happen if you were convicted of a crime.

However, if you were receiving federal student aid, there could be broader concerns. Before you accept any deals or talk to anyone from the Virginia police force versus or attorney's offices, there are some things you may want to know about how criminal charges might affect your eligibility for student aid. 

Dorm party? Don't buy drinks for underage students

Lots of people enjoy parties on campuses in Virginia, and if you don't go to a school with a dry campus, there is a chance that alcohol with be part of the festivities. It's important to keep in mind that not everyone who attends college is over the age of 21. Typically, it's only juniors or seniors in college who are 21 or older, which creates a risk of younger students having access to alcohol when they should not.

Giving alcohol to a minor is a criminal offense, and getting caught drinking underage is as well. There are some things you should do if you find out there are underage people at your party with alcohol, so that you can protect yourself.

What should students know about summer DUIs?

Young people in Virginia and across the country are looking forward to the summer months. Whether it means a long vacation soaking up the sun or taking on a summer job, students on break may also involve alcohol in their activities. As a parent or a student, you should understand the potential complications that drinking during the summer break can entail, especially when it comes to drinking and driving.

As FindLaw points out, students are likely to enjoy alcohol after a long, stressful school year. There is nothing wrong with drinking responsibly and taking care to avoid driving intoxicated or getting in a car with a driver who has been drinking. However, as you may know, young people are often influenced by their peers, and their inexperience may lead them to make decisions they might not make when they are older. For example, high school students on summer vacation may spend many weekend nights partying with their friends. College students, whether they are over or under 21, can engage in heavy drinking and binge drinking to keep up socially or to relieve the stress of finals and summer jobs.

Governor takes on mandatory minimum sentences

People who live in Virginia and who are convicted of criminal offenses will understandably want to learn about the penalties they may face. Depending on the nature of the offense for which a person is convicted, it is possible that there will be little variance in the penalties as many crimes carry with them mandated sentencing guidelines. Many of these require that a defendant be sentenced to a required minimum length of time with absolutely no regard given to the specifics of the case.

Mandatory minimum sentences have been a topic of debate and come under fire by many who assert they are not fair. According to a report by WJLA, two bills were recently passed in the state legislature that would add even more mandatory minimum sentences into the state's code. The Governor, however, has indicated that he intends to veto both of these bills because he does not agree with the required mandatory sentences.

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