Avoid Weekend Holiday DUI, Speeding, and Reckless Driving in Virginia

“Tips for a Safe Fourth of July Celebration in Virginia”

Or, “How to Avoid a Reckless Driving, Speeding, DUI, or Other Driving-related Offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia this Holiday Weekend.”

Being arrested on a weekend Holiday for a DUI in VA should be avoided at all costs. Because the Fourth of July is finally here, and many of us are already looking forward to a long weekend full of cookouts, fireworks, and celebrations with friends, we hope you enjoy your holiday. And we want to share with you a few tips to help keep your weekend be safe and worry-free.

  • Checkpoints: You aren’t the only one who knows this weekend will be full of parties and celebrations. Your local police force knows this, too. They also know that the number of people driving under the influence will be high because of all of that celebrating. To fight this increase in unsafe driving, many police departments will set up DUI checkpoints this weekend. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, checkpoints must be registered and the details of a checkpoint must be published ahead of time. So take the time to check your local newspaper or social media sites and be on the look-out for an increased police presence throughout the long weekend.

  • Cruise Control: When travelling on the highways to and from your get-togethers this weekend, keep your cruise control set on 79 miles per hour in 70 miles per hour zones. Although speed limits across the state have increased, the threshold for reckless driving by speed—80 miles per hour—has not changed. This means that even if the posted speed limit is 70 miles per hour, you can be ticketed for reckless driving by going 81 miles per hour—just 11 miles over the speed limit. Keeping your cruise control set at a speed of no more than 79 miles per hour while travelling in 70 miles per hour zone will keep you from getting a charge that can cost hundreds of dollars more than a speeding ticket and could have a negative effect on your driver’s license points and insurance rates.

  • Stay hydrated and well-rested: Symptoms of fatigue and dehydration can often times be confused with signs of intoxication. So even if you’re driving poorly due to being over-tired or because you didn’t drink enough water at the barbeque, a police officer can still pull you over on suspicion of DUI. To combat this, make sure you drink plenty of water and only drive if you are fully rested, sober, and feeling good.

  • Mopeds: Beginning on July 1, 2014, Virginia law requires that all mopeds operated within the Commonwealth to be registered and titled. This change gives police officers a new crime to charge Virginia drivers with, so make sure your paperwork for your scooter is up to date before travelling around town this holiday. Visit the DMV’s website to see a list of fees for titling and registration. (Link: http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/pdf/dmv201.pdf)

  • Moderation is key: Cookouts and get togethers, especially over the holidays, can some times lead people to over-indulge. Although an extra piece of pie or a second hot dog doesn’t usually result in criminal charges, keep in mind that having an extra beer or a second margarita certainly can. Consuming too much alcohol can not only put you at risk for a DUI conviction, but may also lead public intoxication (or “drunk in public”), assault, and destruction of property charges. Also remember that when the temperatures rise, our bodies lose more liquids and nutrients, which can heighten the effect of alcohol. Too much alcohol can change your decision-making processes, so be careful with what you drink and always err on the side of moderation. (And if you want a criminally-good spin on apple pie that you definitely won’t be able to enjoy in moderation, check out http://bloghungry.typepad.com/blog/2010/04/brie-and-apple-tarts.html)

  • Your right to refuse: The best defense is often a good offense—which is why we tell our clients that they should never drink and drive. That is especially true on holidays where there are more drivers on the road. However, if you do find yourself stopped and accused of drunk driving, don’t forget your right to refuse. You have an absolute right to refuse to participate in any and all field-sobriety tests, and you also have a right to refuse to take a breathalyzer test. While refusing a breathalyzer carries a penalty in Virginia—a fine and a suspended license for one year on your first offense—that penalty is much less severe than the consequences of a DUI. A DUI carries with it the possibility of jail time, fines, enrollment in substance abuse treatment, loss of license, and the requirement that you install an ignition interlock system in your car. Although you can still be convicted of a DUI even if you refuse to take a breathalyzer, it is much more difficult for the Commonwealth to prove its case against you if they don’t have proof of you blood-alcohol content (BAC). So if you are stopped this weekend (or any time!), don’t forget that you have the right to just say “no.”

  • Be polite, but know your rights—We hope that you can enjoy your weekend without having any interactions whatsoever with your local police force. But if you are accused of a crime this holiday, remember that being polite and cooperative does NOT mean you have to give up your rights. Any time you are stopped by police, your first question should be, “Am I under arrest?” If the answer is no, then politely gather your belongings and leave. A police officer has the right to stop you on the street and ask you questions, but you also have the right to politely decline to answer those questions. If you are placed under arrest, the only thing you should ever say to law-enforcement is, “I want to speak to my lawyer.” Attempting to explain your situation—even if you’re attempting to deny the charges—will usually not work out well for you. They can (and will) use your words against you in court. The best way to avoid this, and to avoid them misquoting you or taking your statements out of context, is not to make statements in the first place. Besides, if an officer has arrested you and accused you of a crime, your explanation will likely not change his mind. So exercise your right to be silent, and don’t explain the situation to anyone except your lawyer.

The Fourth of July can be a fun, relaxing, and enjoyable start to the summer season. We hope that your weekend will be full of nothing but good times, but if you or someone you know encounters a problem with law-enforcement—from speeding and reckless driving tickets to DUI’s, drug charges, property crimes, or violent offenses—don’t hesitate to give us a call here at the Law Offices of Sara M. Gaborik. We always provide aggressive, personalized representation, and are happy to provide discounts for seniors, students, and members of the Armed Forces.