DUI is often charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. However, in certain situations, you could be charged with DUI as a felony. Whether you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony DUI, you could face harsh punishments if convicted. You should immediately retain an experienced DUI attorney to mount an aggressive defense to help you get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
When You Could Be Charged With DUI as a Felony in Virginia
If you have been convicted of DUI twice within the last 10 years and are arrested for drunk driving, you would be charged with a Class 6 felony. You could also face felony charges if you were convicted of felony DUI or felony DUI boating in the past.
You face severe punishments if you are convicted of a felony DUI. You would be sentenced to a mandatory six months in prison if the conviction is within five years of your last DUI or 90 days if the conviction is within ten years to up to five years in prison. You could also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $2,500 and have your driver’s license suspended indefinitely.
What Happens in a Felony DUI Case
It is important to understand how a felony DUI case works in Virginia to know what to expect in your case. After your arrest and booking, you can expect the following to occur:
- Bond hearing. At the first court hearing, a magistrate will determine whether you should be released on bail or remain in jail until your case is resolved. If granting you bail, they would set the terms of your release.
- Arraignment. At your arraignment, which could be held at the same hearing as when a decision is made on setting bail, you will be informed of your right to a lawyer and that one would be appointed if you cannot afford to hire one. You would also need to enter a guilty or not guilty plea and decide whether you want your case decided by the judge or at a jury trial.
- Preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing, held in general district court, determines if the prosecutor has enough evidence to establish probable cause that you committed a felony DUI. If the judge finds sufficient probable cause, they will transfer your case to Circuit Court.
- Pre-trial. Your case would also be scheduled for a pre-trial conference where you may enter a plea agreement with the prosecutor. If you do not enter into a plea bargain, a date may be scheduled for challenges to the Commonwealth’s evidence against you, including field sobriety and blood or breathalyzer test results and your trial.
- Trial. If the case is not dismissed and you do not enter a plea agreement, a trial would be held where the prosecutor and your DUI lawyer would present evidence and testimony. At the end of the trial, a jury or the judge would issue a verdict.
- Sentencing hearing. The judge will sentence you at a sentencing hearing if you are convicted.