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What is the Difference Between DUI and DWI in Virginia?

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving while under the influence (DUI) are serious criminal charges in Virginia. Many people use DWI and DUI interchangeably when discussing drunk driving, but they are different criminal charges with different requirements and penalties. Understanding the differences between them can be confusing. However, if you have been arrested for drunk driving in Lynchburg, it is important to understand the difference between DUI and DWI. 

DUI vs. DWI

A defendant can face DWI charges for driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher. Whether or not a suspect appears intoxicated is irrelevant for DWI charges. Proving a DWI is more straightforward than proving a DUI because it involves a chemical test with an objective standard. 

On the other hand, a defendant can face DUI charges regardless of his or her BAC content. A DUI simply means driving under the influence of alcohol or some other type of intoxicant substance. You must have consumed enough of the substance for it to observably affect your speech, manner, muscular movement, disposition, and general appearance.

As long as the alcohol consumption impairs a person’s ability to drive, prosecutors can bring criminal charges. What does this mean? Even if you take a blood alcohol test and your BAC is under the legal limit of .08%, you can still face criminal DUI charges. 

The Penalties for DUI and DWI Charges

Virginia has some of the strictest drunk driving laws in the United States. Virginia does not provide an alternative sentencing option for defendants hoping to avoid a drunk driving conviction. The only way to avoid a conviction in Virginia is to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Your defense lawyer will be able to investigate your case and develop a compelling legal defense strategy.

Under the laws of some states, DUI charges are less severe than DWI charges. However, in Virginia, a defendant can face the same DUI penalties as for a DWI charge. Defendants can face the following penalties for a first-time DUI or DWI:

  • A jail sentence of up to 12 months, including a mandatory minimum sentence of at least five days when your BAC was at least .15%. 
  • The mandatory minimum sentence for a first-time defendant with a BAC of .2% or higher, the defendant will face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 10 days
  • A fine between $250 and $2,500
  • The suspension of your driver’s license for up to a year

What to Do if You are Stopped by a Police Officer for a DWI or DUI

What you do after being pulled over by a law enforcement officer is important. It could mean the difference between facing a DWI charge and a DUI charge. Remember, law enforcement officers can charge you with a DUI even if your BAC level is under 08%. Suppose an officer notices that you are slurring your speech, have bloodshot eyes, or exhibit any other signs of intoxication. In that case, they will have the probable cause necessary to arrest you. 

The first step you can take after being stopped by the police is to cooperate while protecting yourself. We recommend that you remain cordial and non-combative. We also recommend that you stay quiet and do not provide any more information than necessary to law enforcement officers. You have the right to remain silent, and you should use that right. After you have been arrested, you also have the right to have an attorney present with you when law enforcement officers question you.

Taking a Field Sobriety Test

If a law enforcement officer notices that you are slurring your speech or showing any other signs of intoxication, they may ask you to step out of your vehicle and provide a field sobriety test. Taking a field sobriety test is optional and voluntary. Law enforcement officers will use the results of these tests to determine whether they have enough probable cause to arrest you. You do not have to agree to take a field sobriety test. These tests occur while on the side of the road and typically include one or more of the following:

  • Alphabet test
  • Counting test
  • Nine-step walk and turn
  • One-leg stand
  • Finger to nose test 
  • Follow a pen with your eyes (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test)
  • Finger dexterity test

Breath Tests and Implied Consent

Under Virginia law, roadside breath tests are voluntary, and the law enforcement officer must tell you so. You have the right to refuse to take a roadside breath test, also known as a preliminary breath test. Law enforcement officers usually try to talk you into taking the breathalyzer test on the side of the road. That may be true, but the test will also establish probable cause for the person’s arrest, making it impossible for your defense lawyer to make that defense for you. Before administering the test, the law enforcement officer must tell you:

  • They cannot use the test against you in a DUI prosecution
  • You have the right to observe the DUI process, and you have a right to see the result of the test if you request to observe
  • You have the right to refuse the test

Drivers cannot refuse to take a breath test back at the police station without severe consequences. If you drive in Virginia, you offer your implied consent to taking a breath test at the police station through an intoximeter. If you refuse this test, you will be charged with the crime of unreasonable refusal. 

Contact a Virginia DUI/DWI Lawyer

DUI and DWI charges are serious in Virginia. If you are facing one of these charges, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation to learn how we can advocate for your rights. 

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Who Can be Held Responsible for Lynchburg Personal Injuries?

If you have been injured in a Lynchburg personal injury accident, you are probably overwhelmed. Those who suffer serious personal injuries often have to take significant time off of work. You may be wondering how you will pay all of your medical bills and your household bills while you are unable to work due to your injuries. The first step in seeking compensation for your injuries is determining who is legally responsible or liable for your damages. 

At Straw Law Firm, our experienced Lynchburg personal injury attorneys can evaluate your case and help you determine who is at fault. Determining who is at fault depends on which type of personal injury happened. Below we will discuss the most common types of Virginia personal injury law cases. 

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Car accidents can be straightforward, but it can be complicated to determine who is at fault in some cases. Under Virginia law, drivers owe other drivers, pedestrians, and passengers a duty to use reasonable care when driving. The driver whose negligence caused the accident is at fault for the accident. Virginia follows the legal principle of contributory negligence. Only a few states follow this legal doctrine. 

Under the contributory negligence doctrine, courts look at the damage caused by both parties involved in motor vehicle accidents. If the court determines that you were at fault for the car accident, even if you were only 1% at fault, you would not be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. 

The contributory negligence law is considered harsh by many people, and one of the reasons victims of car accidents need to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. If the other driver proves that you were at fault, even to a small degree, you will not be able to recover. At Straw Law Firm, our lawyers will help advocate for your rights by investigating your accident and helping you prove that the other party was at fault for your injuries. 

Proving Fault in Negligence Accidents

If you have suffered an injury in another type of accident, you will need to prove that the defendant’s intentional behavior, negligence, or recklessness caused your injuries. When someone’s negligence or carelessness causes your injuries, that person is financially responsible for your resulting damages. Plaintiffs will need to prove the following elements in order to secure damages for their personal injuries:

  • Duty – You must prove that the defendant owed the you a legal duty to act reasonably under the circumstances
  • Breach – The defendant’s action or inaction breached his or her duty of care
  • Causation – The defendant’s action or inaction caused your injuries
  • Damages – You experienced losses that require compensation

Premises Liability Accidents

When an accident or injury happens on someone else’s property, the victim may bring a lawsuit against the property owner or manager. The owner or occupier of a property can be held liable for specific injuries and accidents that occur on the property. All property owners have a legal duty to make sure their property is reasonably safe so that other people who come onto the property will not suffer any injuries. This area of personal injury law is called “premises liability.” Common premises liability accidents include the following:

  • Becoming injured in an amusement park
  • Slipping and falling on a public sidewalk
  • Swimming pool accidents
  • Dog bites
  • Escalator and elevator accidents
  • Injuries caused by defective conditions on the premises
  • Dog bites
  • Flooding or water leaks
  • Fires
  • Inadequate building security

In premises liability lawsuits, the accident victim brings a lawsuit against the property owner or manager. Whether the accident happened in someone’s home, in a retail store, on a sidewalk, or in a commercial building, you can likely bring a lawsuit against the owner or operator of the building or land if you have been injured. If you suffered an injury on a public sidewalk or in a park owned by the government, you might bring a lawsuit against the city or state that owns the park. 

Filing a Claim With an Insurance Company

In some cases, the defendant does not have any assets, so filing a personal injury lawsuit would not be beneficial. Or, the defendant might have a substantial insurance policy and seeking compensation through the insurance company could provide your best option for recovery. In motor vehicle accidents, the at-fault driver must provide the victim with the opportunity to file a claim for compensation through his or her insurance policy. 

Insurance companies do not want to pay out claims. They are for-profit businesses with a vested interest in paying as little compensation as possible. One way insurance companies seek to avoid paying compensation is to prove that you were at fault for the accident, not their insured policyholder. Many insurance companies begin calling victims of car accidents immediately after the accident. They will ask you to provide them with a statement of what happened. These companies are hoping that you will accidentally admit fault so that they can deny you the compensation you deserve. 

The best thing you can do to increase your chances of proving that the other driver was at fault is to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney. Insurance companies will use any method possible to discount the seriousness of your injuries. Sometimes they even argue that the car accident did not cause your injuries, but instead, that your injuries were pre-existing. An inexperienced lawyer can ensure that you offer them a truthful statement that protects your interest in seeking compensation. We can help you prove that the other driver was at fault for the car accident and that the insurance company must pay you compensation.

Contact Our Experienced Lynchburg Personal Injury Lawyers Today 

If you have suffered a personal injury in Lynchburg and you are interested in seeking compensation, we can help. Contact the straw Law Firm today to schedule your initial consultation. 

What you Need to Know when Preparing for a Deposition

What you Need to Know when Preparing for a Deposition

When a lawsuit is initiated, the parties have the right to conduct a formal investigation to obtain more information about the case before the trial begins. This process is known as “discovery”. There are several different types of discovery. Some of the most common include document requests, written questions (interrogatories), and the oral statements of witnesses, also known as “depositions.”

A deposition is similar to testifying in court, except that there is no judge or jury present. It is an oral statement that is provided by the witness under oath, and it has two primary purposes; to learn what the witness knows, and to preserve the testimony of the witness. The deposition is intended to provide the parties with all of the facts before the trial begins, so there are no last-minute surprises. Depositions allow each side to find out who all of the witnesses are and what they will say at trial.

Depositions do not take place at the courthouse. Usually, they are taken at the office of one of the attorneys. A court reporter is present at the deposition to record a word-for-word transcript, and some are videotaped. During the deposition, the attorney asks a series of questions about the deponent’s knowledge of the facts of the case. In some cases, there may be limitations on what subject matter the attorney is allowed to ask about.

The deponent does not ask any questions, they are only required to answer truthfully all appropriate questions that are asked. The deponent can also have his/her attorney present for the questioning. Depositions can be for as short as 10 or 20 minutes if the attorney only has a handful of questions for the witness. On the other extreme, they can potentially go on for several days if a witness is more deeply involved with the case.

Depositions can be a nerve-wracking event for witnesses being questioned, especially if they have very little prior litigation experience. There is a very good reason for this. Depositions are very serious, and numerous cases have been won and lost over a few careless words by a witness who was not properly prepared.

Preparing for a deposition is a team effort between you and your attorney. Your attorney should advise you beforehand about the details (e.g., time, location, specific purpose, etc.), how you should conduct yourself, and how to prepare.

Here are some important things you need to know in preparing for a deposition:

It is of the utmost importance to take plenty of time to prepare and practice for your deposition. Your lawyer should provide you with a series of questions you are likely to be asked. You may not get those exact questions when you are deposed, but they will probably be similar. You can practice with your attorney, on your own, or both. The more time you spend practicing, the better the chances of a successful outcome.

Remember when you are answering questions that you are not there to convince anyone of the strength of your argument or how great your claim is. You are there to provide information in the form of answers to the attorney’s questions, that’s it. With this in mind, provide clear and direct answers. Avoid rambling and giving long explanations. Remember that you are under oath, and everything you say will become part of the case record. Be polite, but only provide answers to the questions you are asked.

Though your words are not intended to persuade, a good impression can be helpful in establishing your credibility and likeability. As mentioned in the previous point, be polite and respectful to the opposing counsel. Do your best to maintain your composure and not become angry or irritated, even when you are asked a question you do not like, or you are offended by. Be on time, dress nicely, and give the opposing counsel every reason to believe that you are a respectable and credible witness.

Answer the questions accurately and truthfully to the best of your ability. Avoid making guesses or giving the opposing counsel any other opportunity to claim that you were not truthful. This may mean answering some questions with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember”. It is much better to say you don’t know or don’t remember than to make something up. Also, be careful about providing absolute answers unless you are totally certain about your answer.

Along these same lines, be sure to listen carefully to the entire question before answering. In addition, if the attorney presents documents or other information about a question, be sure to review the information thoroughly before you give your answer. Finally, if, during the course of the deposition, you realize that you made an error with one of your answers, inform your attorney so the record can be corrected or supplemented.

Contact an Experienced Virgina Law Firm

Contact the experienced and skilled attorney at Straw Law Firm for all of your legal needs. We can be reached at (434) 595-3581 or online through our website contact form.