How Are DUI Cases Handled in Prince William County?
The most typical DUI case is going to result from a traffic stop, either because a police officer observes a traffic law being broken and in the course of the stop develops a suspension that there is a DUI ongoing, or because they observe a driving behavior which gives them a reasonable suspension that there is a DUI taking place such as weaving or driving slowly or speeding up and slowing down or other erratic behavior.
Once the stop has been made, and the officer has made a determination that there is evidence which reasonably leads him or her to suspect that the driver is under the influence, the next step in that process is an attempt to determine whether there is sufficient evidence, or what we call probable cause, to arrest that individual for DUI.
What goes in the probable cause determination? It’s everything from the driving behavior, to the behavior of the individual which can include whether they have difficulty giving their license, whether they have bloodshot eyes, whether their speech is slurred. It can include whether they have difficulty getting out of their vehicle.
And then the next part of probable cause which is the one that people are most familiar with are the road side sobriety tests or “field sobriety tests.” These can include a nine step walk and turn, a one-legged stand, an alphabet test or many, many other tests that the police use to attempt to build probable cause.
The next step, which is part of the probable cause analysis is what is called a PBT or preliminary breath test which is administered at the side of the road. Under Virginia law, police are required to offer a PBT to allow a person to show they are not under the influence. However in the vast majority of cases, the result of this test is used as probable cause for arrest, rather than resulting in a person being exonerated at that point. If after all those steps are taken and after reviewing all of that information, a police officer then believes they have probable cause to make an arrest, they will then in fact place that person under arrest.
Following An Arrest
After arrest, a person is brought to the police station where they are administered a second breath test after an approximately 20 minute wait to let any alcohol in their mouth dissipate. While one is not required to take this test, refusal to do so results in a separate charge, which if a person is convicted of it, leads to a one year license suspension with no possibility of a restricted license.
Finally, if the breath test shows a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more, the individual will be brought before a magistrate judge in Prince William County and a warrant will be issued charging them with DUI. An initial determination about whether a person is admitted to bail (sometimes referred to as “getting bond”) is also made. At that time the person’s driver’s license is administratively suspended for at least 7 days and it is surrendered to police.