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DUI convictions and defenses

A DUI conviction in Virginia can have serious lifelong consequences, but it is important to remember that not all drivers accused of driving under the influence will be found guilty.

Many DUI cases are centered on the initial vehicle stop. When an officer makes a stop, he or she may suspect that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This suspicion may be based on the appearance of the driver or the smell of alcohol. The officer will typically conduct a field sobriety test, which will require the driver to perform tasks that help the officer determine whether the driver is in fact impaired. Some of these tests involve walking in a straight line or reciting the alphabet backwards. The officer may request a chemical test for intoxication. These tests can measure the driver's blood-alcohol concentration. An officer may conduct a Breathalyzer test on the scene or a blood or urine test at a hospital.

Drivers who have a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 percent are considered to be intoxicated under Virginia law. However, a driver can be arrested and convicted of a DUI if they are under the 0.08 mark if the officer has other evidence that the driver was driving while impaired.

Because DUI cases are often based on test results and officer testimony, those are the main things to target in your defense. One of the most common defenses is the improper stop defense, which says that the officer lacked probable cause to make the initial stop. Many defenses question the integrity of the field sobriety tests and chemical tests conducted. These test results can be deemed inaccurate if the tests were not conducted properly or if the results were tampered with in any way.

Another defense involves a rising blood alcohol concentration. This defense claims that the driver's BAC level was below 0.08 at the time of the traffic stop, but increased before the administration of the Breathalyzer test. This can occur if the alcohol was not fully absorbed into the body until the time of the test. With these defenses, those charged with DUIs may be able to protect themselves from severe consequences.

Source: FindLaw, "DUI Offense Basics," accessed on Sept. 16, 2014

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