The definition of BAC, or blood alcohol concentration, is simple. It's the amount of alcohol present in your bloodstream. The more alcohol you consume, the higher your BAC will get. BAC levels will vary from person to person and differ based on a variety of factors that you will read more about below.
BAC can be one of the main factors in determining whether or not you will be charged with DUI in Virginia. When working with an attorney, this can also be one of the most important legal issues to take into consideration when forming a defense strategy for you.
A Quick Recap of What Happens if Convicted of DUI
In Virginia, if you're convicted of a DUI, you will lose your license for a certain period of time. If convicted on a first offense DUI with a BAC level not considered elevated, your license will be suspended for 12 months with eligibility for a restricted license allowing you to perform required tasks such as driving to work or school.
If you are charged with a second DUI in Virginia or one that is of the elevated blood alcohol content of 0.15 or more, you are most likely facing a mandatory minimum jail term. At Williams Stone Carpenter Buczek, PC, we strive to assist you with any situation you are facing as best as possible. Reducing a DUI charge to a reckless driving charge can often be a very difficult task to accomplish. Likewise, when facing a multiple DUI charge, reducing this to a first offense charge can also be complex. We have successfully defended many different DUI situations for many residents of Virginia, including those located in Stafford, Fredericksburg, Quantico as well as Stafford County, Prince William County, and Spotsylvania County. Our lawyers do not view a DUI as a simple criminal charge and we are here to assist you in any way we can.
BAC Limits in Virginia
The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is .08. However, this limit only applies to drivers age 21 and older. Drivers under 21 can be charged with DUI for having a BAC of .02 or above. Additionally, truck drivers and other commercial drivers have a BAC limit of .04.
If it is determined that you were driving under the influence of drugs and your ability to drive was impaired, you may be charged with DUI regardless of your BAC.
How BAC is Measured
A breath test is the most common process utilized by law enforcement to measure BAC levels. Traffic stops tend to be when most BAC checks are administered. The machines used to measure BAC levels are delicate instruments that must be calibrated and maintained in order to be the most accurate. Virginia is tough on drivers who have been arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol. But, if you have found yourself in a situation where you are questioning the BAC procedure or the levels obtained from a breath test, consider contacting us to discuss your situation.
How Can Your BAC Be Affected?
- How much alcohol you have consumed.
- The amount of alcohol consumed over what period of time.
- Your body size. A larger person may have a lower BAC than a smaller individual.
- How much food you've eaten. When eating, alcohol is often absorbed into the bloodstream at a slower rate. If drinking on an empty stomach, food is not present to slow the absorption of alcohol, therefore causing your BAC to rise faster.
- Drinking fruit juice or water can slow absorption & carbonated beverages will speed it up.
- Gender - women typically have a higher BAC level than men who consume the same.
Zero-Tolerance Laws in Virginia
Virginia has a zero-tolerance law for DUI if under 21 years of age. For those under 21, the legal limit for BAC is .02 percent. If you are under 21 and your BAC is at least .02 percent but below .08 percent, you may be fined up to $500, face jail time, and have your driver's license suspended for six months. If your BAC test states that you have a level of .08 or higher, you will be charged as an adult.
Penalties for Refusing a BAC Test
When stopped for suspicious DUI, a police officer may choose to administer both a breath and chemical test. Virginia has what is called implied consent law. When you first got your Virginia driver's license, you agreed to consent to BAC testing if suspected of drinking and driving. Of course, you do have the option to refuse a breath or chemical test, but the consequences can be severe.
If you deny a breath test for the very first time, a court may suspend your license for one year. If charged with a second DUI and also refuse a BAC test, you will be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor. If you have two or more past DUI convictions and refuse the test, you will be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. Both a class 2 and class 1 misdemeanor carry three-year license suspensions in the state of Virginia.
What is Probable Cause?
The laws regarding DUI in Virginia have some unique provisions when it comes to DUI arrests.
As an example, we will use a car accident. Upon arriving at the scene, a police officer may try to establish probable cause that you had been drinking or were even drunk when the accident happened. Probable cause is simple. It means that a police officer has a reasonable belief that you broke the law. A few items that may support an officer with a probable cause theory include:
- The officer saw the accident and saw you driving erratically
- After the accident occurred, the officer notices slurred speech when speaking to you
- The officer smells alcohol on your breath after the accident
If probable cause is established, you may be arrested for DUI within three hours of the accident you were involved in without a warrant.
BAC & Your Defense Strategy
So your test results were over the legal limit. You may feel that you have no options. Who you work with and rely on for representation for any DUI charge directly affects what happens to you in the future. When facing serious penalties such as jail time, fines, probation, suspension of a driver's license and more, a proven DUI attorney makes all the difference. For an initial consultation, contact Williams Stone Carpenter Buczek, PC today at 540-657-0111.