Frequently Asked Questions About DUI Cases in Maryland and Washington D.C.
- Page 1
Which drivers need to have SR-22 and FR-44 insurance after a DUI charge?
A DUI charge in Virginia or D.C. can lead to jail time, expensive fines, and a possible revocation of your driving privileges. Even after you have served time and paid thousands of dollars, you may still have to suffer financial consequences in the years to come, especially when it comes to paying for auto insurance.
SR-22 and FR-44 Insurance Requirements for Drunk Driving Offenses in VA and MD
Nearly every state requires drivers to carry some form of car insurance, but people who are convicted of a DUI are under much more strict regulations than other drivers. Depending on the circumstances of their arrests, DUI offenders in Virginia, Maryland, and the District may be court-ordered to provide proof of insurability (known as SR-22) or proof of financial responsibility (known as FR-44).
SR-22 Insurance Coverage
SR-22 stands for Safety Responsibility, and it is a special document that your insurer sends to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to verify that your coverage is valid. SR-22 is not an insurance policy; it is only a document that guarantees that your auto insurance policy is active. The SR-22 certificate is usually required after driving offense convictions of a lesser nature, such as:
- Suspension for serious driving offenses not related to DUI
- Driving an uninsured vehicle under suspension
- No proof of insurance
- Falsifying insurance coverage
- Excessive speeding citations
- Unsatisfied judgments
The court will automatically require this proof of insurance if your driving privileges are taken away because of a DUI charge or reckless driving charge. Drivers who are convicted of driving offenses may have to provide an SR-22 to have their driver’s licenses reinstated. Drivers are usually required to provide SR-22 documentation for up to five years. If you allow your policy to lapse, the SR-22 will be revoked and an SR-26 (no coverage) document will be issued to the DMV. If this occurs, your driving privileges will be revoked.
FR-44 Insurance Coverage
The FR-44 is much more severe than a SR-22 certificate. After an individual is convicted of DUI in Virginia, the DMV requires them to obtain an FR-44, otherwise known as a Financial Responsibility Certificate. The FR44 is a proof issued by the insurer to the DMV that you have valid auto insurance coverage of at least twice the state-required minimum. If you are under an FR-44 order, you must maintain coverage of 50/40/100, or $50,000 worth of bodily injury liability for one person, $40,000 worth of liability coverage for property damage, and $100,000 worth of bodily injury liability for others involved in each accident.
- You may be required to obtain an FR-44 if you have been found guilty of any of the following:
- Failure to follow any laws at the federal or state level
- Failure to follow any local driving ordinances
- Driving after a conviction in which your driver’s license was forfeited
- Driving under the influence of drugs or intoxicants (DUI/DWI)
- Maiming under the influence
Drivers are usually required to hold FR-44 insurance for three years, but those who wish to apply for a restricted driver’s license must carry FR-44 insurance for four years. If the court informs you that you need to file for an FR44, the first thing you need to do is contact your insurance provider and secure adequate coverage. If you modify or revoke your policy at any time, the DMV will automatically be notified by your insurer, and you will face a second suspension of your license, an increase in fines, and an extension of the required FR44 coverage time.
Not only are drivers required to secure proof of insurance, they will typically pay much higher costs for insurance and suffer worse coverage rates than other drivers. Many insurance providers will deny coverage to drivers with DUI convictions—and the ones that supply coverage can charge much higher premiums as a result. However, drivers will only have to face these charges if they are convicted of a DUI, so it is vital to have an experienced traffic attorney examine your case before you plead. Call Tucker, Nong & Associates today for an evaluation of your case, or use our online contact form to have one of our associates get in touch with you.
Whether Or Not To Blow For A DUI Traffic Stop
There really aren’t any clear answers on the issue of whether to submit to breath testing after a DUI stop in Virginia. The only specifically defined line out there is the .08 limit. With a blood alcohol content at .08 or above, there’s a legal presumption that you’re under the influence. You have the burden of rebutting that presumption. How that limit might be determined when a person was operating a motor vehicle is subject to argument, particularly when a blood alcohol breath test is taken an hour or two or even longer after a traffic stop.
Like all other states, Virginia has an implied consent law. By the mere act of operating a motor in Virginia, the driver gives their consent for breath and/or blood testing within three hours of a traffic stop if they’re suspected of driving while intoxicated.
Refusing Breath Testing
Contrary to what many people believe, you’re not required to submit to blood alcohol breath testing after a DUI stop. The officer that stops you might try to make you feel that you have to, but you have a right to refuse breath testing. The problem with that is even if you haven’t been drinking, there’s a very high likelihood you’ll be taken into custody for a DUI because you refused the test, particularly if you didn’t perform satisfactorily on any field sobriety tests. By the way, you don’t have to take those either. The officer will tell you with a very authoritative voice that they want you to take tests. Those are mere requests. You don’t have to take any field sobriety or portable breath tests.
Penalties For Refusal
There are no penalties for refusing to perform field sobriety tests, but there are penalties for refusing to perform breath testing at the police station or other facility. Don’t confuse portable breath testing at the scene with breath testing at the station. There are no consequences for refusing portable breath testing. At the station, if you are asked to perform a blood alcohol breath test and you unreasonably refuse, you can be convicted of a civil violation if it’s your first offense. Just about every refusal is deemed unreasonable by the courts. If convicted, the fine is $500 and your driver’s license will be suspended for a year. Upon a conviction, a restricted license will not be permitted. A second conviction for an unreasonable refusal within 10 years is considered a criminal offense. It’s punishable by a three year suspension.
Blow Or No Blow
The decision on whether to submit to breath testing depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding every suspected DUI stop. The first rule of submitting to breath testing is that if you’ve been drinking, and you consent to breath testing, you’re probably giving the prosecution precisely the evidence that they need to convict you. You can even be convicted of DUI with a blood alcohol content less than .08. If you’ve been drinking and you’re in an accident, even if it’s not your fault, you probably don’t want to perform any field sobriety or breath tests.
Next, if you have a prior record of an alcohol related driving offense, you probably want to exercise the no field tests and no blow option. It’s highly likely that a prior alcohol related driving offense will come up to bite you again in charging and/or sentencing. A third DUI in Virginia is ordinarily charged as a felony with mandatory incarceration upon conviction. Other than a client who has been arrested for DUI that hasn’t been drinking, the DUI lawyer’s favorite client is the client who performed no field sobriety tests and no breath tests. In those cases, unless there’s damaging video, it’s the police officer’s word against the driver’s word. That’s not enough evidence to convict a person beyond a reasonable doubt.
The decision will be up to you, but if you drink and drive, you’ll eventually need to decide on whether to take a breath test in the future. If you have been arrested or charged with a DUI or DWI, contact us quickly for assistance.
What Should You Do If You’re Pulled Over For DUI Suspicion in Virginia?
If a person is pulled over in Virginia for suspicion of DUI, the police officer must follow a specific set of actions. The entire process starts when the traffic stop begins. The officer will tell the driver why he or she pulled them over and explain why said reason is against the law.
The officer will say he or she saw the driver engaging in activity that could indicate intoxication. For example, the driver might be pulled over for driving the wrong way, weaving in and out of traffic, or speeding. However, a driver might also be pulled over for any other valid reason that qualifies as reasonable suspicion for DUI in Virginia.
If a Virginia police officer suspects DUI, he or she will ask the driver questions. In most cases, the officer will ask the driver if they’ve been drinking or using drugs. Officers will almost always look for the obvious signs of intoxication, which might include slurred speech or bloodshot eyes. They might also become suspicious if the scent of alcohol is present.
Field Sobriety Tests & Chemical Tests For DUI
After the initial questions, officers in Virginia are expected to perform field sobriety tests will ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests on an individual who is suspected of DUI to gather additional evidence.
The three most common field sobriety tests include:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus
- One-leg stand
The horizontal gaze nystagmus is viewed as the most accurate field sobriety test, and it’s accurate about 77 percent of the time. The driver isn’t obligated to perform the field sobriety tests but there will be consequences if they refuse a chemical test. Officers can use breath, urine or blood testing to see if the driver is really intoxicated.
The most common type of chemical test is the breath test, and it’s used to determine how much alcohol is present in the driver’s saliva. In Virginia, a driver will be arrested if he or she blows over .08 percent or more.
What Happens If You Refuse?
You have the right to refuse the chemical test, and if you choose to do so, the officer must explain the consequences that you’ll face for such a decision. In Virginia, failing to submit to the chemical test will cause you to lose your license for one year.
After asking the first time, the officer will ask the driver a second time if he or she submits to a chemical test. If the driver still refuses, he or she will lose their license for one year and will not be eligible for a restricted license.
What Happens If You're Arrested For DUI?
If an officer decides to arrest a driver, he or she will be transported to the police station and must stay in jail while awaiting court before a bail is set or they are released.
When a driver appears in court, they’re formally charged with a DUI offense. If you’re ever caught in this situation, you’ll have the opportunity to plead not guilty or guilty.
Drivers who’ve been arrested for DUI might not know how to plea. If a driver pleads guilty for DUI, they’ll receive the punishment given to them by the court. However, if the driver pleads not guilty, a date will be set for the trial.
Hire a Virginia DUI Lawyer
For the best chance at obtaining favorable results, it’s crucial to hire an attorney. All drivers need to understand that police errors are quite common.
It doesn’t matter when the error occurred; a single error by the arresting officer could result in a dropped case. If an attorney isn’t hired, it’s nearly impossible to know if any errors were made. In many cases, an officer’s reason for pulling over a driver is deemed unacceptable.
If faulty equipment was used during the arrest, it could be grounds to drop charges. If you plead guilty on a DUI charge in Virginia, you face an automatic $250 fine, and depending on your BAC level, you could face anywhere from 5 to 10 days in jail. You’ll also lose your license.
If you don’t have prior convictions, you might be eligible for a restricted driver’s license. A second conviction will result in greater fines and more time in jail. In Virginia, a third DUI offense is considered a felony.
If you’ve been arrested for DUI, contact our Vienna DUI attorneys immediately by calling 703-991-7978.