West Virginia DUI Defense Attorney
In West Virginia, driving under the influence (DUI) is the offense that people without a criminal history are the most likely to face. Driving while drunk or drugged is a bad decision that upstanding people make all the time when they are the least able to make a better one. In spite of the fact that DUI is usually a victimless crime, where the inebriated driver put others at risk but no one got hurt, the penalties of a DUI conviction are severe in West Virginia. They also have a tendency to negatively affect your life in other ways, as well.
The DUI-defense lawyers at The Criminal Defense Firm strive to legally represent criminal defendants in West Virginia and fight against allegations of drunk or drugged driving. With their legal guidance, criminal defendants accused of DUI have been able to raise effective legal defenses that have led to acquittals, case dismissals, and other favorable outcomes.
West Virginia DUI Law
DUI is a surprisingly nuanced area of criminal law, including in West Virginia. Known as a “strict liability crime,” DUI is one of the few criminal offenses that prohibit a physical state – inebriation while driving – without reference to a defendant’s mental state. Other crimes forbid you from doing things intentionally, or knowingly, or at least recklessly. DUI does not care about your intentions.
Instead, West Virginia’s DUI law, West Virginia Code §17C-5-2, makes it a crime to drive a vehicle while “in an impaired state” from either drugs or alcohol. Importantly, an “impaired state” means either of the following:
- Under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both, or
- Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent.
This leaves open the possibility that you can be charged and convicted for DUI even if your BAC was below the legal limit. This can happen if the arresting officer considers you to be too impaired to drive, regardless of how low your breathalyzer results were.
It is also important to note that West Virginia’s DUI law is one of the few in the country that does not prohibit driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In West Virginia, you can get a DUI if you drive any vehicle, including:
- Motorized wheelchairs
West Virginia’s DUI law is also rare in that it punishes vehicle owners who knowingly let someone else drive their car while intoxicated.
Steep Penalties of a Conviction
There are two broad types of penalties that you will face if you get convicted for a criminal offense:
- Legal consequences, which are imposed by the court, and
- Collateral consequences, which come from non-government actors.
This is especially important for DUI convictions, because the collateral consequences are far more disproportionately severe than they are for other offenses.
Legal Consequences of a DUI
The legal consequences of a criminal conviction are generally:
- Jail time
DUIs also come with an additional legal penalty: A suspension of your driver’s license.
DUI crimes are also different than many other criminal offenses in that they are priorable – each successive conviction comes with higher penalties. The “lookback period” for prior offenses, though, is 10 years. If you got arrested for DUI last night and have a prior conviction for DUI but it was 15 years ago, your arrest will be for a first-time offense.
In West Virginia, the legal penalties for a conviction for DUI start at:
- 1 day to 6 months in jail
- $100 to $500 in fines
- License revocation of 6 months
- 6 months to 1 year in jail
- $1,000 to $3,000 in fines
- License revocation of 10 years
Third or subsequent offense:
- 1 to 3 years in prison
- $3,000 to $5,000 in fines
- Lifetime license revocation
These penalties increase still further if there are any aggravating factors to the case. Additionally, some factual circumstances can lead to additional criminal charges, each of which will carry its own set of penalties. For example:
- If you were arrested while driving with children in the vehicle, you can be accused of child endangerment
- If you caused an accident that led to a fatality you can face charges for vehicular manslaughter
- If you caused an accident that led to someone else suffering a serious bodily injury, the penalties will increase
- The penalties will also increase if your BAC was 0.15 percent or higher
- If police impound your vehicle and find illegal drugs in it when they search it, you can face charges for drug possession
Collateral Consequences of a DUI
There will also be collateral consequences to the conviction. Some of the most common are:
- Social stigmatization from the arrest and the implication of substance abuse that it can carry
- Losing your job because you cannot get to work without your driver’s license
- Losing career prospects, whether as a professional driver or becoming ineligible for jobs that require a clean criminal history
- Higher car insurance premiums
- Presumptive liability for a crash associated with your arrest
In some cases, these setbacks can be more difficult to overcome than the jail time that was imposed.
Legal Defenses Against Allegations of Drunk Driving or Drugged Driving
With such significant penalties on the table, it is essential to raise strong legal defenses to the allegations of drunk or drugged driving. While the particular factual circumstances will dictate which defensive strategy is the right one for your case, some of the most common that the DUI-defense lawyers at The Criminal Defense Firm have used have been:
- A lack of probable cause for the traffic stop that led to the arrest
- The breathalyzer used was not correctly calibrated
- The officer’s testimony is not credible enough to support the conviction
- Field sobriety tests were incorrectly administered or were flawed
These are just a few of the potential DUI defense strategies that can be used.
Even in the worst cases, a good DUI-defense lawyer can help to mitigate the sentence that gets imposed. A clean criminal history can be used to justify a light sentence. If you want to avoid jail time then other arrangements can be made in a plea deal, like a longer probation term or community service. If you need your driving privileges to hold down your job, a conditional driver’s license can be obtained or an ignition interlock device (IID) can be installed.
Some FAQs About West Virginia’s DUI Laws and The Criminal Defense Firm
What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI?
The difference between a DUI and a DWI is just a matter of semantics. Some states refer to the offense of driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol as “driving under the influence” or DUI. Others call it “driving while impaired” or “driving while intoxicated,” or DWI. A few others, like Maine, refer to the offense as “operating under the influence” or OUI.
Generally, though, the phrases are used interchangeably. In only a few states, like New York, are there different types of offenses that use these different phrases in a meaningful way.
Is the Legal BAC Limit Always 0.08 Percent?
No, some groups of people have a lower legal limit for drunk driving in West Virginia. The two most important of these groups are:
- Commercial vehicle drivers, including bus drivers and school bus drivers, who have a legal BAC limit of 0.04 percent
- Drivers under the age of 21, who have a legal BAC limit of 0.02 percent
This is particularly important for commercial drivers to know and appreciate. 0.04 percent BAC is quite low, and the costs of a DUI conviction will likely cost you your job.
What is the Administrative Process for a License Revocation?
An arrest for DUI is unique in that it will spawn two distinct legal procedures. First, there is the criminal case, which is pursued by prosecutors, heard in West Virginia state court, and carries jail time, fines, probation, and license revocation as penalties. However, there is also the administrative process, which is heard by the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The administrative process will determine what happens to your driver’s license while your criminal case proceeds. This can be a significant amount of time, so protecting your right to drive in the administrative process is critical.
What are the Penalties if I Let Someone Use My Car and They Were Arrested for DUI?
If you knowingly let someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol drive your car, you can be guilty of a misdemeanor in West Virginia. Under West Virginia Code §17C-5-2(h), a conviction for this offense carries up to 6 months in jail, a fine of between $100 and $500, and a 6-month license revocation, even though you were not the one behind the wheel.
Why Does The Criminal Defense Firm Not Call Itself the Best DUI-Defense Firm in West Virginia?
While our team of senior-level defense lawyers have put together a long list of success stories in the courtroom, we think that statements like these are better heard from our clients than from us. Many of our prior clients have left glowing testimonials about the legal representation they have received from The Criminal Defense Firm.
The Criminal Defense Firm: DUI-Defense Lawyers for West Virginia
The DUI-defense lawyers at The Criminal Defense Firm have helped numerous people in West Virginia fight against allegations of drunk driving or drugged driving. They have a long list of successful outcomes, including jury acquittals and dropped charges. Even many clients who have been convicted and sentenced have seen the consequences of their conviction drastically reduced.
Contact The Criminal Defense Firm online or call their law office at (866) 603-4540 for legal representation in West Virginia.