Fredericksburg Felony DUI Lawyer

When someone is arrested for driving under the influence in Virginia, they are usually facing misdemeanor charges. However, there are several aggravating factors that can come into play to elevate the offense to a felony. Felony charges are going to potentially carry heavier fines, longer imprisonment, and other harsh consequences. If you are facing felony charges as a result of a DUI, contact a Fredericksburg felony DUI lawyer to see how an experienced defense attorney could help your case.

Elevating DUI Charges to a Felony Offense

One way a DUI charge can be elevated to a felony offense is if it is a third or subsequent DUI charge within a 10-year period of time. Any time someone is convicted of two DUIs within 10 years and is charged with a third DUI, that third DUI will result in a felony. There are also other instances in which a DUI could be charged along with additional felonies. For example, if there is a serious accident or injury involved or if the driver is also in possession of a controlled substance.

Differences in Processing a Felony DUI Compared to Misdemeanor

Most of the differences between a felony DUI and a misdemeanor DUI are in the procedural safeguards to protect the defendant. A defendant in any DUI case has constitutional rights guaranteed. The person has the right to examine the evidence against them and the right to bring witnesses into court if they need to do that. They have the right to cross-examine witnesses that appear against them and the right not to testify.

It is the same whether a person’s case is a misdemeanor or a felony, but with a felony case, there are more procedural safeguards and the case generally takes a longer route. Even though felony cases are heard in Circuit Court, they generally will originate in the General District Court like a misdemeanor case. The General District Court only hears the preliminary hearing (a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to send a case to trial) for felonies.

Almost every case has enough evidence to send that case to trial, as it is a very low bar for the prosecutor to prove. A preliminary hearing gives the defendant and the Fredericksburg felony DUI lawyer a valuable opportunity to work with the prosecutor and police officer in the General District Court level to try to resolve the case as a misdemeanor without facing even the possibility of a felony conviction.

Building a Defense

Preparing a defense for a felony DUI charge is somewhat different than a misdemeanor depending on whether the client is in jail or out on bond. If someone is not out on bond, the first step is to get them out on bond so that they can be of assistance in their case. Most of the initial steps in a DUI investigation involve the gathering of evidence. The attorney is going to get information available through the defendant as well as the notes the arresting police officer took. The lawyer will also look for any possible video footage of the field sobriety test form the police cruiser or from a body camera.

That evidence is analyzed along with subpoenaed evidence from breathalyzer machines and technicians to find if there are any difficulties or significant holes the prosecution has in proving each element of their case beyond a reasonable doubt. When someone is charged with a felony, it is important to start from the very beginning to determine if anything can be done to mitigate any punishment they ultimately face.

Value of a Fredericksburg Felony DUI Attorney

It is extremely valuable to hire local counsel when facing a felony DUI, simply because a Fredericksburg felony DUI lawyer will have more experience in court, with the prosecutors, and with the judges involved. Each court and jurisdiction have different sets of rules and ways that cases get assigned to prosecutors, such as the different ways prosecutors will give discovery to defense lawyers and different ways prosecutors want to bargain about cases. It is important to have a local attorney who is familiar with all these practices in each county and is able to speak to the prosecutor, knowing that they have had similar conversations with that prosecutor in the past and will continue to work with that prosecutor in the future. If you are facing felony DUI charges, contact a seasoned attorney today.