Five Hidden DUI Defenses in Loudoun County
In Virginia, the overall cost of a first-time DUI could be over $20,000. Lack of intoxication, or rather lack of evidence of intoxication, is usually the best defense, and often the only defense, in DUI cases. For example, officers might have used a Breathalyzer that wasn’t properly calibrated or the defendant might have refused to provide a chemical sample or perform field sobriety tests, like the one-leg stand. Other defenses might be available as well. More on that below.
Because the cost of a DUI is so high, a Virginia DUI defense lawyer always pulls out all the stops to reduce or eliminate the consequences of a DUI conviction. If the case has evidence issues, the judge might throw it out of court or jurors might conclude that the defendant was not guilty. Alternatively, the prosecutor might agree to reduce DUI charges to a lesser included offense, such as reckless driving, that doesn’t have the same collateral effects as DUI.
Usually, police officers cannot detain motorists unless they reasonably suspect that criminal activity is afoot.
Basically, reasonable suspicion is an evidence-based hunch. That evidence-based hunch could be something unrelated to DUI, such as speeding or making an illegal turn. However, mere hunches, like a driver leaving a bar late at night, don’t hold up in court. Furtive movements, like nervous glances into a rear view mirror, don’t hold up in court either.
Different rules apply to DUI checkpoint stops. Even if officers didn’t have reasonable suspicion, these stops are usually legal, if the roadblock met certain legal requirements.
A higher standard of evidence, probably cause, applies to arrests. Usually, officers rely on the aforementioned field sobriety tests to establish probable cause. Typically, an officer’s subjective opinion that the defendant “failed” the test is sufficient for probable cause. That opinion doesn’t matter much at trial. Jurors decide for themselves whether the defendant passed or failed the test or tests.
The fewer tests a defendant performs, the less evidence of probable cause is available. If the defendant refused to perform any tests, prosecutors must normally rely on weak circumstantial evidence of intoxication, like bloodshot eyes. A good Leesburg criminal defense lawyer can tear such evidence apart.
Many communities straddle the county line. Frequently, overworked prosecutors don’t [ay much attention to boundary lines, and they file charges in the incorrect county. Loudoun County judges only have jurisdiction over offenses that occurred in Loudoun County.
Filing a case in the wrong county isn’t technically a defense. Prosecutors could simply start over in the correct county. However, instead of going through all that, they’re usually willing to offer favorable deals, like the aforementioned charge reduction.
Not “Operating” the Vehicle
Legally, DUI is OUI (operating a vehicle under the influence). Virginia law broadly defines “openly.” Defendants are operating vehicles even if they are passed out behind the wheel.
However, prosecutors must prove the vehicle had gas and was otherwise in operating condition. Frequently, arresting officers don’t take note of such things, so this evidence is unavailable.
Not a Public Place
The DUI law only applies if the defendant was operating a motor vehicle in a public place. Apartment complex and shopping mall parking lots aren’t public places. Private driveways and the space in front of a private dwelling are in a gray area.
Count on a Detail-Oriented Loudoun County Lawyer
There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction in criminal law. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Leesburg, contact Simms Showers, LLP, Attorneys at Law. Convenient payment plans are available.