When an officer pulls a driver over in West Virginia, the first reaction is often panic and maybe even a twinge of fear. This can grow into full-blown anxiety when the officer asks them to step out of the car and submit to field sobriety tests (FSTs). By the time law enforcement has made the arrest and the driver is on the way to the police station, they can end up feeling completely helpless to change how events are unfolding.
It is important to realize that at the time the officer pulls the driver over, they only suspect that the driver is DUI. Everything they do after that is to gather enough evidence to make an arrest. For residents of Charles Town and surrounding areas, knowing the process and how to defend yourself against drunk driving charges are critical to holding on to your driving privileges and keeping your life on track.
When the best defense is a strong offense
When someone is facing DUI charges, having a strong defense team will help them not only to understand their rights but also how to fight back against the charges. For example, knowing which tests you must submit to and which you can refuse can limit what law enforcement can use against you in court. Implied consent laws do require that a suspect take a breath and secondary chemical test, however.
But there is no law prohibiting or penalty punishing someone who refuses FSTs in West Virginia, and yet the police often use the results of these tests as an excuse to get the suspect out of the car. Even if they arrest you without the FSTs, if you don’t take the tests they cannot use the results as evidence against you in court.
Other effective defenses may include:
- The officer did not have probable cause to pull the defendant over.
- Mishandling of the results of the blood or chemical test.
- A rising blood alcohol level, which can occur when an individual has had some alcohol, which rises in the bloodstream as the body absorbs it, potentially putting over the legal limit.
A strong defense strategy often turns the tables on those who are responsible for the arrest. Questioning the officer’s actions or motives, or if they were using improper procedures before or during the arrest, can put the prosecution and the officer on defense.
DUI laws in West Virginia
DUI penalties in the Mountain State apply not only to alcohol, but also to other controlled substances, drugs or combinations of the above. The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% for adults, and the two categories of penalties that can apply are administrative sanctions and criminal charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony:
- DUI less than 0.15%: First offense, possible license suspension or revocation of 15 to 90 days, fines up to $500 and jail time of up to six months.
- DUI 0.15% or higher: First offense, mandatory license suspension or revocation of 45 days, fines up to $1,000 and jail time of up to six months.
- Repeat DUI: mandatory license suspension or revocation of 12 months, fines up to $5,000 and jail time of up to five years.
West Virginia also has special BAC restrictions and penalties for drivers under age 21 which can result in automatic revocation of their driver’s license and required participation in the WV Alcohol Test and Lock Program (also known as interlock).