Virginia courts treat third offense DUI charges very seriously. Not only do they hand down harsh punishments, but they have little sympathy for people charged with third offense DUIs. The court wants to, and is going to try, to teach you a lesson, because they will assume that you have repeated the same behavior so many times in the past that you are going to continue behaving in the same fashion.
If you are facing third offense DUI charges in Vienna, it is absolutely essential that you contact a Vienna DUI lawyer as soon as possible to begin building your most robust and comprehensive defense.
Third offense DUI charges are prosecuted very vigorously. Not only is a third offense DUI charged as a felony offense, which is the most serious offense classification in Virginia, but the fact that the driver is being charged with a DUI for a third time indicates to the prosecutor or to the judge that the driver is somebody who is disregarding and disrespecting the law, and who might be a danger to the community because of their continual risky behavior of driving under the influence.
The treatment of a third offense DUI is different than the treatment of first and second offenses in many ways. Primarily, this is because a third offense DUI is treated as a felony, while first and second offense DUIs are charged as misdemeanors. The license law is also much more serious for a third offense versus a first or a second. There are many differences, but overall, a third offense is going to be much more serious than first or second offense DUI.
Individuals will not be offered diversion programs or probations for a third offense DUI. They will be on probation after serving their required jail time, but there is no way to avoid the harsh mandatory minimum sentencing that accompanies a third offense DUI conviction. A third DUI offense within five years lands someone with a six month mandatory minimum sentence, proving how harshly these charges are prosecuted. The mandatory minimum sentence must be served if the individual is convicted, and that is in addition to whatever the judge gives the defendant or the prosecutor recommends in the case.
A third offense DUI is going to be prosecuted as a felony if it is the third offense within 10 years. The enhanced penalties for third offense generally start with a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days and a minimum fine of $1,000. If it is a person’s third offense DUI within five years, the mandatory minimum increases to six months with a potential maximum of five years in prison. Depending on the facts of their case, an individual might serve time in state prison as opposed to county jail.
Additionally, the period of suspension is extremely lengthened, a driver’s license is revoked indefinitely, and depending on the circumstances of the case, the driver may have to forfeit their vehicle. The time between DUIs is very important. Depending on the time between DUIs, a sentence can be made more or less harsh. If there is not a large gap between the DUIs, an individual is going to be facing more harsh mandatory minimum time.
There will be enhanced penalties for heightened BACs. The BAC level that is proved in court may result in additional mandatory minimum sentences. If an individual’s BAC is 0.15 or above, there will be an increase in the mandatory minimum sentence by five or 10 days, so the mandatory minimum sentence could potentially be 20 days, depending on how high the person’s BAC is and how many DUIs they have been previously convicted of.
If a driver is not convicted of the DUI, they will eventually be able to get their license back, but after a third offense DUI conviction, an individual’s license will be suspended indefinitely.
Drivers may apply for a restricted driver’s license three years after their third offense DUI convictions, but there is no guarantee a judge will respond favorably to the application. After five years, drivers have the opportunity to petition to the court to restore their license, but the court is under no obligation to return the person’s driving privileges, so the ability to drive at any point in the future is very much in question after a third offense DUI.
If an individual’s third offense occurs within 10 years, the charge is going to be prosecuted as a felony, and as any other felony, the first court it will be heard in is the General District Court in Vienna. At the preliminary hearing the prosecution will show probable cause to have their case bound, and will show that they have just enough evidence to be able to prosecute the case in Circuit Court, which is where all the evidence will be presented against the driver, and either a judge or jury will hear the case and decide the driver is guilty or not.
Local experience absolutely matters when you are choosing an attorney in a third offense DUI case. A Vienna DUI lawyer will know the prosecutors and the judge, and more importantly, the process and what to expect.
An attorney’s working knowledge of the process enables them to approach and attack evidence much more effectively by knowing what to look for and where weaknesses are in these types of cases. Another benefit of retaining a locally experienced lawyer is their familiarity with the area. A seasoned Vienna lawyer will know any kind of observation that the arresting officer could or could not have made in specific surroundings, including whether or not the area was an appropriate place to be asking an individual to perform field sobriety tests in, and what the lighting was like.
Third offense DUI cases are heavily scrutinized, and thoroughly addressing the small details can make or break a case. These seemingly minute details are critical components of a strong defense, and a local attorney will know how to use them in a way that an outside lawyer would not in building your defense.