You shouldn’t expect the court or prosecutors to take these charges lightly, and you shouldn’t expect them to reduce the charges or dismiss the case unless there are serious evidentiary issues with proving the case.
Many people expect some leniency from prosecutors for a first offense DUI because many people who commit DUIs have led otherwise outstanding lives. But that often doesn’t sway prosecutors who take the approach that even if the DUI charge is the first time you’ve ever had any contact with the criminal justice system, you should be punished the same as anyone else.
For a first time DUI, the penalties include:
Every first DUI conviction also carries with it a one-year loss of license and any restricted license will require the installation of ignition interlock. The punishments for first offense DUI are severe.
The prosecutors almost never offer a diversion program on a DUI in Virginia. You can expect that you will either have a trial on the DUI, or plead guilty to the DUI if you are charged with that offense. Prosecutors simply do not give diversion programs in Virginia on DUIs and they are reluctant to even reduce the DUI to a different charge (like reckless driving) unless they have some real evidentiary problems with their case.
Courts also take DUIs very seriously; judges are very strict on DUIs. DUI is a charge that obviously is of a lot of concern to the community. Because the judges and prosecutors are responsive to the community they too take those types of cases seriously, and police enforce them vigorously. There are organizations that are solely devoted to stopping drunk driving such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and those organizations pass along their concern to the prosecutor’s office and to the judges and ensure that the court system takes the cases seriously.
The biggest mistakes DUI defendants make when being investigated for DUI is to provide the police with evidence of their intoxication by performing the field sobriety tests and by making admissions as to how much they’ve had to drink. You do not have to perform the field sobriety tests no matter how much police insist, nor do you have to speak with police and doing so usually only puts you in a worse position.
Although it’s human nature to want to cooperate with police, making admissions, even if it is only admitting that you had two or three drinks can be used against you later in court. And since police typically weren’t with you when you were drinking, this is evidence that they couldn’t obtain otherwise, so volunteering it simply isn’t good for your case.
Those are the biggest mistakes I see with DUI defendants…making admissions that harm them later in court and performing field sobriety tests that only provide more evidence for the police and prosecutors to use in court.