In West Virginia, the terms Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) are more or less interchangeable. If you are driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or higher, then a police officer can charge you with a DUI. Because your BAC level is above the legal limit, it is a DUI “per se,” meaning you meet the legal requirements, and no additional evidence of impairment will be necessary for a conviction.
An aggravated DUI in West Virginia is when your BAC is 0.15% or above. An aggravated DUI charge carries more severe penalties, as it indicates a very high level of intoxication. However, you should know that a police officer can also charge you with a DUI even though you do not meet the threshold.
When is that possible?
An officer can charge you with a DUI if you have consumed enough alcohol or drugs to impair your ability to drive safely. The prosecutor of your case must be able to prove the impairment. They can do this by obtaining evidence, usually in the form of witness testimonies and police statements. The evidence must be fact-based and observable. Remember, an officer can only arrest someone they suspect of DUI if they have probable cause, such as a motor vehicle crash.
Because your BAC is below the legal limit, you will have a better chance of building a defense strategy. The arresting officer’s observations are not necessarily facts. Fatigue and road conditions can impact a person’s ability to drive reasonably, and field sobriety tests are not always reliable.
What if your BAC is above the legal limit?
The implications of BAC levels in DUI charges in Virginia are clear. A higher BAC could result in harsher potential charges and penalties. If your BAC is above the legal limit, then it will be more challenging to contest the charges.
Nevertheless, a DUI charge is not a conviction and possible defense strategies exist. It might include questioning the maintenance and calibration of the breathalyzer machine, the timing and administration of the test or the officer’s interpretation of the results. It could also be a matter of police misconduct or deviation from protocol, such as an illegal traffic stop. The evidence obtained could be inadmissible in court.
Whatever the facts surrounding your case, you have your rights, and understanding them could help you clear your name or reduce the charges.