Do I even have a chance to win my Virginia DUI trial? (Possible defenses to your case).

Just because you were charged with a Virginia DUI does not mean you are automatically guilty. While every case will depend on its particular facts, it’s important to discuss your case with an attorney. Virginia DUI cases are very technical, and there are certain facts a prosecutor most prove for you to be convicted.

Of course, every case is different, but James Abrenio has successfully defended numerous people charged with DUIs. He’s earned outright acquittals as well as lesser charges at trial. This article is meant to explore some things you should think about when considering your chances a trial. Here’s a few questions to be asking about your case.

Why Were You Stopped in the First Place?

Let’s say you are driving down the road. Perhaps you are going to a friend’s house to watch some TV. You are driving the speed limit within your lane, making appropriate signals when you change lanes or turn, driving a vehicle in proper working order, and breaking no traffic or criminal law whatsoever. Would it seem to you that an officer can pull you over simply because he doesn’t like the color of your car, the type of glasses you’re wearing, or just to “see what he can find?” Absolutely not!

The United States Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia protect you from that kind of police action. Luckily, criminal defense attorneys have worked hard over the years to enforce those rights in the United States Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Virginia. Law enforcement officers must have “reasonable suspicion” that you are violating a criminal or traffic law to stop you. That means that at the moment the officer pulls your vehicle over, he must have a reasonable basis to think that you violated the law. Therefore, to stop you, the officer must have reasonably believed that you were speeding, improperly changing lanes, driving while intoxicated, or have some other basis that he can explain as to why he thought you were breaking the law.

What happens if the officer pulled you over without reasonable suspicion and then charges you with DWI?

In that case, you were “illegally seized” in violation of your Constitutional rights. If the judge finds that you were illegally seized, your DWI could very well be dismissed because the evidence was illegally seized and should be excluded at trial. Illegally obtained evidence generally cannot be used against you.

What if the officer was just plain wrong about the law? What if, for example, he thought you ran through a stop sign, and it turns out there actually was no stop sign? Without question, you were still illegally seized, but the court will have to determine whether or not the officer cannot use his mistake to excuse the fact that he violated the law. Usually the court will not permit such a blatant violation even if the officer can establish that he acted in good faith, however the issue frequently comes up under less obvious circumstances.

What is Required to Arrest Someone for a DWI?

In the next scenario, imagine you were pulled over for speeding at 12:30 am. Perhaps you were out with friends, and one of your friends happens to spill a beer in your lap. By now, your pants are dry, but you smell like alcohol. The officer asks for your license and registration, and you comply. The officer then asks, “Have you had anything to drink?” You reply, “No, but my friend spilled a drink on me earlier.” The officer has probably heard this excuse before so asks you to step out of the vehicle.

He then asks you to perform some field sobriety tests. These tests should be standardized tests developed by the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (“NTSHA”) that are intended to aid in determining whether a person is intoxicated.[1]

You comply with his request…or try to. The problem is that it’s dark outside, cars are passing by, the officer’s cruiser lights are on, he’s asking you to do these very physically taxing activities with complicated instructions and YOU ARE NERVOUS.

The officer interprets your actions as “failing” the tests and therefore arrests you. Is this fair? Can they get away with this? Well Virginia law requires that an officer have probable cause that you are DWI before he can arrest you. Just as before, if the officer does not possess the reasonable objective evidence to arrest you, he cannot benefit from obtained from you after the arrest. If it can be established that an arrest was not supported by probable cause, that fact can benefit your defense.

More Questions about your Virginia DUI? Give Abrenio Law a call!

This is a short article about Virginia DUIs. Likely your case warrants a much more in depth discussion. If you have more questions review, give Abrenio Law a call at Ph. 703-570-4180. You can also learn more about Owner James Abrenio here!


[1] Frequently officers in Virginia invent their own field sobriety tests or use variations of the NTSHA tests despite the fact that they are standardized. Many of my clients have been subjected to tests that were not NTSHA approved. One could easily conclude that an unproven test has unproven indicators of intoxication. Again, you wont win on this issue if your lawyer doesn’t aggressively seek the facts.