If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been charged with a DWI or DUI in Fairfax County, Virginia and are wondering what to expect as your case makes its way through the Court System. An experienced lawyer from the Dischley team can help you navigate this landscape that probably feels so unfamiliar.
We know this situation is daunting and stressful, but Fairfax County tends to be one of the best jurisdictions to deal with this type of charge. The purpose of this post is to explain what to expect when dealing with your DWI and ancillary charges in Fairfax County.
Upon your release from jail or issuance of a summons for DWI or DUI, your first court date will be set within about two weeks. This first appearance is an arraignment date. If you hire counsel before this date, your lawyer will be able to get the arraignment waived and will advise you of your trial date.
If you choose to go to your arraignment or you have not hired counsel, this is simply an advisement hearing. The judge is going to advise you that this is an offense that does carry the possibility of jail. (First and second offense DWIs are punishable as a class one misdemeanor, which means a maximum punishment is up to 12 months in jail and a $2500 fine.)
The judge will also inquire about what you want to do in regard to having a lawyer represent you. At this time, you will tell the judge that you’re either going to retain counsel or you can fill out a financial affidavit to see if you qualify for the public defender. If you don’t qualify for the public defender or are you indicate that you’re going to retain counsel, an attorney review date will be set. The court will advise you of the next court date and also advise that you do not need to appear provided your counsel submits a notice of appearance form.
Attorney Review Date
Approximately 2 to 3 weeks after your arraignment, the court will require that you appear if you have not hired a lawyer to check on the status of your representation. If you have not hired a lawyer before this date, the court could give you more time, or once again see if you’re eligible for court-appointed counsel. They may also have you sign a waiver of counsel form indicating that if you show up for trial without a lawyer, you’re waiving your right to have a lawyer represent you. Again, if you have hired a lawyer, counsel will have this hearing waived and your appearance will not be required.
Filing for Discovery
In Fairfax County, attorneys must file for discovery under the Virginia Supreme Court rule 7C:5. This entitles counsel to receive a copy of the officer’s body-worn camera, in-car video, your criminal history, police reports, or other documents that outline your statements made to law enforcement. This does not always include witness statements or conversations with witnesses captured on the officer’s camera system.
The timing of this disclosure is typically 10 to 14 days before trial. However, it is quite common that attorneys will not receive this information until the first court appearance.
First Time Up/ First Trial Date
Despite numerous changes in the Fairfax County Court system to try to resolve a lot of these cases on the first court date, typically, your first trial date—or what attorneys call “first time up”— is a date where discovery is usually provided to your lawyer and the case is continued for trial. If discovery has been provided before this date, your attorney may be in a position to negotiate a resolution of the case, or if the case is ready for trial, the case can proceed that day.
However, keep in mind, the government has a right to prepare as well, and they may not have subpoenaed all their witnesses necessary for a trial. These witnesses typically include the breath tech or members of the department of forensic science if it’s a DUI blood case.
In a nutshell, at the first time up, you should expect the case to get continued or the prosecutor to make their best offer.
Possible Outcomes in Fairfax County
Everybody wants to get out of their DWI charge. However, after a close analysis of the case, other goals may be set to avoid jail time, lengthy license suspensions, or having your charge reduced to some other events.
A standard disposition on a DWI in Fairfax County that does not include a blood alcohol concentration above .15 is as follows: 30 days in jail suspended in its entirety and a fine of $500 with $250 suspended. The suspended jail and portion of the fine are conditioned on your 12 months of general good behavior, enrollment in and successful completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program, and a 12-month loss of license with eligibility for two types of restricted license. If your blood alcohol concentration in a first offense DWI is greater than .05, you face a five-day mandatory minimum jail sentence. If it is greater than a .2, you face a 10-day mandatory minimum jail sentence. While these mandatory minimums are negotiable, they are factors that increase the risk of trial.
Second offense DWIs within five or 10 years carry additional mandatory minimum sentences. If you have a second offense DWI with an elevated blood alcohol concentration, the mandatory minimums get even more severe. Additionally, license suspensions for second offenses are up to 36 months and eligibility for restricted licenses varies from a hard loss of license of four months to one year.
Regardless of the type of DWI that you’re charged with, there’s always the prospect that we could get a prosecutor to reduce the offense to reckless driving. When a prosecutor reduces an offense to reckless driving, they typically ask for a 30-day suspended jail sentence and a $500 fine with $250 suspended. This suspended portion of the jail and fine are typically conditioned on 12 months of general good behavior, enrollment in, and successful completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program and your license would be suspended for six months. You would be eligible for two types of restricted licenses: one permitting you to drive anywhere you want as long as you have a functioning ignition interlock system and the other limiting where you can drive and not requiring the ignition interlock device.
If you opt to challenge the case at trial, it’s likely that your attorney is going to challenge (1) reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop or the initial interaction with the officer; and (2) probable cause for your arrest. If unsuccessful in those two challenges, your attorney will try to keep your breath test out if there is one.
The decision to go to trial in Fairfax County is highly fact-specific and involves weighing the risk of harsher penalties versus the strengths and probability of winning your case. Or, carefully weighed against the offer from the prosecutor to make sure the right decision is being made.
Consulting with an experienced defense attorney who concentrates on DWIs in Fairfax County can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. As attorneys, we often advise the client to complete specific mitigation items particular to Fairfax County, so we can negotiate the best possible outcome. Because the facts in each DWI offense are so different, you need an experienced DWI attorney who can develop an effective strategy to get you the best possible result in the Fairfax County Court.
Attorneys at Dischley Law, PLLC have over 25 years of experience handling complex DWI cases. We are members of the National College for DUI Defense and handle hundreds of DUIs a year throughout Northern Virginia.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation. We can be reached at (703) 215-9337 or via our online contact form.