May 15, 2019 Navigating around potential Virginia DUI penalty pitfalls
Navigating around potential penalty pitfalls is essential, says Virginia DUI lawyer
Navigating around potential Virginia DUI sentencing pitfalls is essential for a criminal defense lawyer. As a Virginia DUI lawyer, I look not only at ways to obtain an acquittal, but also at the DWI sentencing risks in the event of a conviction. Those risks might include mandatory minimum sentencing for allegedly elevated blood alcohol levels, having a prior conviction for a substantially similar offense, and driving with a minor present in the vehicle. Va. Code § 18.2-270. I also look at such possibly aggravating sentencing factors as high speed and accidents connected to alcohol consumption.
Navigating the DUI minefield is about scoring points and not about fearing possible adverse outcomes
Nobody ever said that criminal defense is easy. Many people come to me with tough cases, whether because they got caught redhanded, because they risk stiff sentencing because of their prior criminal record, because their jobs or security clearances are at risk from the pending DUI or other case, or because they risk mandatory minimum sentencing. It is overly facile and a misconception for a criminal defense lawyer to reason that all of that is in the lap of the person who commits such offenses. First, all criminal defendants are presumed innocent and many innocent people get prosecuted. Second, the criminal justice system is overcriminalized, and part of my work is about overcoming that overcriminalization. Third, my criminal defense work is teamwork with my client, and I want and fight for the best possible outcome for my clients. The DUI and criminal defense fight needs to be strong, effective and fearless.
Virginia DUI lawyer on the three possibilities on a trial date
On a DUI or any criminal trial date, the defense has three choices in navigating the case: Proceed to trial, seek a negotiated settlement, or seek a case continuance based on good cause shown. Proceeding to trial usually means that settlement negotiations have not succeeded. Seeking a postponement needs to consider whether settlement negotiations will be better, worse or the same on any next court date, and whether the prosecutor will have a strengthened or weakened case in the light of more preparation time for both sides that results from a continuance.
Seeking a DUI negotiated settlement before moving to postpone the trial
A trial date postponement is not guaranteed, being within the sound discretion of the trial judge. Usually it does not hurt first for the DUI attorney to seek a favorable negotiated settlement, whether that be for a dismissal with or without conditions, an amended charge to a count more favorable than DWI, or a sentence more favorable than the likely sentencing range if convicted at trial, in navigating the defense.
In a recent comparatively successful settlement negotiation, my client was facing an accumulated thirty day mandatory jail minimum if convicted of the original charge of DUI after a prior DWI conviction within ten years (ten day mandatory jail minimum) on top of a blood alcohol content (BAC) over 0.20 (an additional twenty days due to the prior conviction). The prosecutor told me that he and the police officer did not have a certified copy of my client’s prior DUI conviction (which could easily have been obtained with a short drive to the neighboring county courthouse, so it was only a question of whether that drive would be made), and was offering to amend the charge to first-time DUI with the resulting ten-day mandatory jail minimum for the elevated BAC, together with a delayed jail start time and immediate restricted driving privileges (versus the four month wait for such privileges for a second offense conviction within ten years). Under the circumstances, that was a very good negotiated settlement.
As always, negotiating must be from a position of strength, always trial ready in the event of unsuccessful case negotiations, a client who insists on a trial no matter what or changes his or her mind about negotiations, or any other circumstances that call for a trial.
Virginia DUI lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against DWI, felony, and misdemeanor prosecutions. To discuss your case with Jon Katz, please call his staff at 703-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation.