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What to Expect in Court if You Get a DUI in Fairfax

DUI cases in Virginia tend to carry harsh penalties and serious consequences for your finances, your criminal record, and your life. This is no different in Fairfax than it is anywhere else in the state. Depending on the circumstances of your case, what to expect in court will vary, but overall DUIs are treated as very serious crimes. One of the best things you can do after being arrested is to contact a Fairfax DUI attorney. Often, an attorney can help you understand your rights and potentially get you a better outcome in court. At S&R Law Firm, PLLC we believe that everyone is entitled to fair treatment after a DUI, and our team is dedicated to ensuring that our clients’ rights are upheld.

What Happens in Court?

Whether it is your first DUI offense or your fifth, you must appear in court. First and second offense DUIs are considered misdemeanors, which means your case will be heard by a judge in the General District Court. General District Court hearings involve a judge, a prosecutor, and your defense attorney if you have one. There is no jury in General District Court, but this does not mean that your case will be taken any less seriously. Fairfax county prosecutors tend to call for harsh penalties for DUI cases and argue aggressively for punishment.

The judge will determine your punishment depending on how you plea, your blood alcohol level, and other circumstances of your case such as whether or not there were any injuries or property damage. Generally, the more serious the circumstances, the more severe punishment you can expect. If you are convicted by the General District Court but are not satisfied with the judge’s ruling, you can appeal it, which will result in a hearing in Circuit Court. Here, you can determine whether you want your case to be heard by a jury. The judge or the prosecutor can also request a jury, in which case there will most certainly be one.

For felony cases, or for those with a third offense or beyond, your case will go directly to Circuit Court.

How Will my Guilt be Determined?

The prosecutor’s job in court is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, and that your blood alcohol content was above .08.

Several pieces of evidence will be brought into consideration, including the arresting officer’s testimony. The arresting officer will testify about what they noticed during the arrest that made them call your sobriety into question. This could include slurred speech, a lack of coordination, an inability to focus your eyes, or poor performance on field sobriety tests. After a DUI arrest, your blood alcohol concentration will always be promptly tested, so your BAC will also come into evidence, and the person who operated the breathalyzer will usually appear as a witness. If there were other witnesses at the scene, they may also be called to testify.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, if you have a Fairfax DUI lawyer, they will raise challenges to the evidence if applicable. For example, if errors were made during the arrest process, if the breathalyzer or blood test was potentially performed inaccurately, or if the testing equipment was improperly calibrated or used, they will argue that there is reasonable doubt to your guilt.

A defense attorney can also help you get a restricted license rather than a fully suspended license, so that you can still go to work or do important duties that are part of your life. If your blood alcohol concentration was low after your arrest, they may also be able to get your charge reduced to “wet reckless” which can help you keep your driver’s license.

If you are found guilty, a first-time DUI conviction can result in up to a year in jail, $2500 in fines, and a 1-year license suspension. After a first conviction, the penalties only get worse, with significantly higher fines and jail time. Mandatory alcohol classes and the required use of an expensive in-car breathalyzer known as an ignition interlock system are also part of a conviction.

Why Having a Lawyer is Important

Going to court alone is not only intimidating, but the penalties for DUIs in Fairfax are notoriously harsh. Prosecutors are committed to protecting public safety by deterring others from driving under the influence, and they see the most effective way to do this as recommending severe punishments.

Because DUIs are severely and consistently prosecuted in Fairfax, it is rare that someone’s case is dropped, but a DUI lawyer serving Fairfax can help you create a strong defense and potentially reduce some of these penalties.

If you have recently been convicted of a DUI in Fairfax, contact S&R Law Firm, PLLC for a free consultation at 703-273-6431.

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