The ALR Process in Virginia
The Old Dominion State, like all other states, has an implied consent law. When motorists sign their drivers’ licenses, they agree to provide chemical BAC samples, if a peace officer makes a lawful demand. More on that below. Interestingly, the implied consent law applies if the defendant is in “actual physical control of a motor vehicle.” That definition is different from the one in most DUI laws.
The implied consent law, and the accompanying Administrative Law Review drivers’ license suspension process, is just one reason to immediately partner with a Leesburg criminal defense lawyer in a DUI case. The sooner an attorney starts working for you, the easier it is to reduce, or even eliminate, the harsh direct and indirect consequences of a DUI conviction. These consequences are particularly bad in Virginia, which is well-known for its harsh DUI laws.
Pre-Conviction License Suspension
In most cases, a “lawful demand” means the officer had reasonable suspicion for the stop and probable cause for the arrest.
Most DUI stops begin with traffic violations. Many violations in the Virginia Traffic Code are quite obscure. Some of the more obscure ones include changing lanes within fifty feet of an intersection, failure to stop when pulling out of a private driveway, and a dangling air freshener or other object in the passenger area. Most people cannot go more than two or three blocks without committing at least one traffic violation.
Ticky-tack traffic violations constitute reasonable suspicion, but driver behavior doesn’t make the grade. Many officers cite furtive movements, like nervous glances into a rear view mirror, in their reports. These gestures, by themselves, aren’t reasonable suspicion.
Officers don’t need reasonable suspicion to detain motorists at designated checkpoints. DUI roadblocks must meet very strict legal requirements. But that’s the subject of a different blog.
Probable cause is the next step up. But it’s not a big step up. In one recent case, a federal judge ruled that officers had probable cause to detain a motorist who was traveling 1mph over the speed limit. Officers knew the charges wouldn’t hold up in court. A RADAR gun’s standard margin of error is plus or minus 1mph.
The ALR Process
Generally, defendants have thirty days to demand an ALR hearing. If they miss this deadline, the full drivers’ license suspension term automatically takes effect. This term is usually seven days for a first failure or refusal and sixty days for a second refusal or failure.
ALR hearings aren’t easy to “win,” mostly because Constitutional protections don’t apply, since these proceedings aren’t criminal matters. For example, the presiding administrative law judge, who incidentally normally serves as the prosecutor as well, can force defendants to testify against themselves.
Nevertheless, a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer almost always secures a favorable result at the ALR hearing. ALJs aren’t completely one-sided. If the evidence is weak, they often probate the suspension period. Furthermore, an ALR healing allows a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer to cross-examine the arresting officer under oath. That’s a very rare opportunity that’s usually unavailable in misdemeanors.
Additionally, the worst possible outcome is full imposition of the entire suspension period, which as mentioned, would have happened anyway.
Connect with a Savvy 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.