An Educated Client is the Best Client - Get Your Virginia DUI Questions Answered Here
Many people who have been cited for reckless driving or arrested for drunk driving in Virginia have common questions, and our Manassas DUI defense lawyers developed this section on our website to educate, inform and help you through this difficult time. When you are facing a challenging case, look for your answers here. If you cannot locate the answer to your specific question, please give us a call, and our qualified Northern Virginia criminal defense attorneys will answer your legal questions.
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I'm scared to death. If things don't go well and I end up being found guilty of a DUI / DWI in Virginia, am I going to go to jail?
Maybe. If you are eventually convicted of a DUI / DWI in Virginia, you may or may not be sentenced to serve time in a local jail or a state prison - it just depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your particular case. Some DUI / DWI offenses in Virginia have mandatory jail/prison sentences, while others do not. In addition, many DUI / DWI cases involve aggravated facts and circumstances that are so bad that you could end up being incarcerated by a judge or jury - even though Virginia DUI / DWI law doesn't require it.
Virginia DUI / DWI offenses involving specific facts and circumstances have mandatory minimum jail/prison sentences. If you are convicted of a DUI / DWI with the following aggravating factors, your jail sentence can be no shorter than listed below, but it can be longer - all the way up to the maximum punishments allowed.
- Breath or blood test results of 0.15 or more.....................5 days
- Transporting a passenger 17 years of age or younger.......... 5 days
- 2nd offense within 5 to 10 years.................................10 days
- 2nd offense within 5 years.........................................20 days
- 3rd offense within 5 to 10 years...................................90 days
- 3rd offense within 5 years......................................... 6 months
- 4th, etc.offense within 10 years.....................................1 year
If my Virginia DUI / DWI case goes to trial, will it be decided by a judge or a jury?
It depends on the court in which the case is tried and whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. The Virginia court system has three different trial courts: Circuit Court, General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Under Virginia law, a drunk driving case could be brought to trial in any of the three courts, but jury trials are only available in the Circuit Court. There are no jury trials in either the General District Court or the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in Virginia, so all cases which come to trial in those courts are decided by a judge.
In Virginia, misdemeanor level drunk driving cases with juvenile offenders are typically heard in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, and misdemeanor level drunk driving cases involving adults are typically heard in the General District Court, so most DUI / DWI cases that go to trial in Virginia are decided by a judge. However, if you are found guilty in either of those courts you have the automatic right to appeal the case to the Circuit Court for a new trial. At this new trial in the Circuit Court you have the right to have a jury trial. All felony DUI / DWI offenses in Virginia are tried in the Circuit Court, so you have the right to have a jury trial.
Why would someone elect to have a jury decide a Virginia DUI / DWI case instead of a judge?
In my experience, when there is a preference for having a jury trial over a judge trial it is because some people believe jurors may be less jaded, and bring more of an open mind to the table than judges who hear case after case day after day. Another potentially attractive aspect of a jury trial is that at the end of a judge trial, only the judge has to be convinced that you are guilty, but at the end of a jury trial, all of the jurors have to agree that you are guilty. If just one juror believes that the case against you has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, you can not be found guilty.