DUI Defense Charleston, West Virginia
The vast majority of people never encounter the criminal justice system in Charleston, West Virginia. For those without a criminal background, the offense that they are the most likely to get accused of committing is driving under the influence, or DUI. Drunk driving is the result of a bad choice that is made when you are least able to make a good one. And while it is frequently a victimless crime, political pressure has led to legislation that has increased the penalties of a conviction until they have become way out of proportion to the severity of the offense.
Getting skilled legal representation is essential if you have been arrested and accused of drunk or drugged driving in Charleston. The DUI-defense lawyers at The Criminal Defense Firm have a long history of winning in the courtroom and securing favorable outcomes for their clients in the state. With their help, you can challenge the case being presented against you, preserve your driving privileges, and protect your interests and your future.
DUI Law in Charleston, West Virginia
West Virginia Code §17C-5-2 is the state law that criminalizes drunk or drugged driving. Like in all other states, DUI is a strict liability offense in West Virginia: You can be convicted for it without any evidence regarding your intent to commit the crime. While most other criminal offenses can only be committed with intentional, knowing, or even reckless conduct, your state of mind is not an element in DUI cases. Instead, the law only requires evidence that you were “in an impaired state” while driving a vehicle.
There are a few pieces of the law that deserve some explication.
Under the terms of the statute, an “impaired state” includes:
- Having a blood alcohol content, or BAC, at or above the legal limit of 0.08 percent, or
- Being under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both.
This is important because it means you can get charged, and convicted, for DUI even if your BAC is not over the legal limit. If the arresting police officer thinks that you are under the influence of alcohol but then the results of a breathalyzer test are under the legal limit, they can still make an arrest if they think you are too impaired to drive safely. Their testimony about how you were acting during the traffic stop, all on its own, can be enough for a conviction in some cases.
Additionally, West Virginia’s DUI law is unusual in the U.S. because it covers “any person who drives a vehicle.” Most other states have DUI laws that apply to people who drive “motor vehicles.” This means you can get convicted for DUI in Charleston if you were under the influence and using a:
The Penalties for a DUI Conviction
It is important to appreciate that there are two different kinds of penalties that you will suffer if you get convicted for any crime in Charleston, West Virginia. These are:
- Legal penalties, and
- Collateral consequences.
This is especially important for DUI cases because the collateral consequences can be more significant than in other types of offenses.
Legal penalties are those that are meted out by the government and judicial system. They include:
- Jail time
- License revocation
- Other legal obligations to satisfy, like community service or a substance abuse treatment course
In West Virginia, the legal penalties for a DUI will depend on the factors of your case and your criminal history. Because DUIs are “priorable” offenses, the penalties increase if you have a prior conviction for DUI in the last 10 years. For basic DUI arrests that do not have any aggravating factors, the penalties are surprisingly steep:
- Between 1 day and 6 months in jail
- Fines of $100 to $500
- 6-month license revocation
- Between 6 months and 1 year in jail
- Fines of $1,000 to $3,000
- 10-year license revocation
Third or subsequent offense:
- Between 1 and 3 years in jail
- Fines of $3,000 to $5,000
- Permanent license revocation
These penalties can get even worse if there are aggravating factors in your case. These factors can increase the penalties for a DUI conviction, or can lead to additional criminal charges. Some of the most common include:
- Having a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher
- Causing a car accident that led to someone else suffering a serious bodily injury
- Causing a fatal accident while under the influence, which can lead to a charge for vehicular manslaughter
- Getting arrested for DUI while there were children in the vehicle, which can lead to allegations of child endangerment
- Police impounding your vehicle and finding illegal drugs in it when they search it, leading to charges of drug possession
There are also the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. These are what you can suffer from non-government sources. For DUI offenses, they can sometimes be even more difficult to overcome than the legal repercussions.
Some of the most common are:
- Your license revocation causing you to lose your job
- Having to pay higher car insurance premiums as the insurance company sees you as a riskier driver
- Social stigmatization and a reputation damaged by the perception of substance abuse that can come with a DUI
- Losing career prospects, whether as a professional driver or because the blemish on your criminal background makes you ineligible for necessary professional certifications
Legal Defenses to DUI Charges in Charleston
It is important to remember that getting arrested for DUI is not the same as getting convicted for it. Law enforcement still needs to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt for you to face the legal penalties of a conviction and many of the collateral consequences that come with it.
While the best defense for your case will depend on the precise details of what happened, a few of the most common legal defenses to raise against a DUI charge in Charleston tend to be:
- No probable cause for the traffic stop
- Improperly conducted sobriety checkpoint
- Faulty or poorly calibrated breathalyzer
- Flawed testimony from the arresting officer about your state of impairment
- Incorrectly administered or unapproved field sobriety tests
Additionally, steps can be taken to mitigate the penalties of a conviction. Even when it is clear that the case against you is a strong one, taking these steps can make a huge difference in the outcome of the case and your future. For example, you can plead guilty to a plea deal that does not have jail time or can make use of West Virginia’s DUI Deferral Program if the DUI was your first offense.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Criminal Defense Firm and DUI Law in Charleston, WV
What is the Legal Limit?
In West Virginia and 49 other states – all except Utah – the legal limit for blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent. However, there are exceptions to this.
Drivers under the legal drinking age of 21 have a legal limit of 0.02 percent in West Virginia because they should not have any alcohol in their systems, at all.
Some other drivers, like commercial driver’s license holders or bus drivers, are held to a higher standard. Their BAC limit is 0.04 percent. This is very important to remember because these drivers are also almost guaranteed to lose their job if they get convicted for DUI.
How Does the Administrative License Revocation Process Work?
DUIs are confusing to many defendants because they go through two different processes: The criminal one and the administrative one.
The criminal DUI case is the one that people are familiar with. This is the case that takes a long time, goes through court, and can end with a conviction that imposes fines, jail time, and a license revocation.
However, there is also an administrative process. This one happens very quickly and is conducted by the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you do not act fast, it can strip you of your driving privileges while your criminal case is moving forward.
Why Should I Hire The Criminal Defense Firm?
The Criminal Defense Firm is staffed entirely with senior-level defense lawyers, many of whom have had long and distinguished careers as prosecutors pursuing some of the same types of cases that you are facing. That experience has given them invaluable insight into the inner workings of prosecutors’ offices in Charleston – insight that can make a big difference in the outcome of your case.
Because our team of lawyers is only comprised of seasoned attorneys, you can also rest assured that the legal strategies being developed for your case and the legal work being done to execute on them is all done by experienced attorneys, not paralegals or junior associates.
Why Doesn’t The Criminal Defense Firm Call Itself the Best DUI Attorneys in Charleston?
The Criminal Defense Firm: DUI-Defense Lawyers Serving Charleston, West Virginia
The Criminal Defense Firm’s DUI-defense attorneys have helped numerous defendants in Charleston, West Virginia, invoke their rights and raise effective legal defenses that have protected their interests and future. Contact our attorneys online or call them at (866) 603-4540 for legal representation against a DUI charge in the area.