Federal DUI/DWI in Virginia

Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an offense punishable under Virginia Code Ann 18.2-266. Under the influence includes a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or merely being “under the influence” regardless of the BAC. That is, though most cases involve a BAC of .08 or higher, which allows the court to presume that the driver was under the influence, a BAC of .08 is not required to be “under the influence.”  Virginia Code Ann. 18.2-270 prescribes the punishment for driving while intoxicated. And remember, you can be charged and punished for refusing to submit to a breath test in Virginia, as previously discussed here.

The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney will prosecute most DUI cases where the offense took place on a road or highway in Virginia.  If the incident took place on a federal road, however, then the case will end up in federal court, such as the United States District Court Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA).  For example, a DUI that takes place along the George Washington Memorial Parkway will end up in Federal Court rather than the nearby Alexandria General District Court.  Another common example, particularly in Northern Virginia, is a DUI offense that is committed by a civilian while on-board a military installation–including Fort Belvoir, Quantico, the Pentagon, and Fort Meyer.  These cases end up in the EDVA rather than the local Virginia court. 

Though the procedures and systems are different between local and federal courts, the substantive law will generally remain the same.  Unless the offense took place on land owned by the Federal Park Service–which is a separate category not discussed here–then the federal court will apply Virginia’s DUI law to the case.  Likewise the sentence in federal court will often be similar, though not always the same, to the punishment levied in the local general district court. 

Nonetheless, each individual court has its own nuances; from how and if the prosecutor (whether the Commonwealth’s Attorney or the Assistant United States Attorney) provides discovery prior to the hearing to how to most effectively challenge the prosecution’s evidence in front of an individual judge.  Thus, though the law may stay the same, the result will necessarily vary based on each case’s facts and the manner in which the case is defended.  Please contact the law office today if you have any questions about a Virginia driving while intoxicated case.   

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