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Roanoke Virginia Criminal Defense Law Blog

Campaign pushes for expungement process overhaul

Anyone in Virginia who has ever been arrested for a crime knows how important it is to find ways to move forward and rebuild their lives in a positive way after such an experience. Having a criminal record eliminated, or expunged as it is called, is one thing that can help to facilitate this. The Center for American Progress has initiated a campaign called Clean Slate designed to provide for a better expungement process than many people currently experience.

Unfortunately, as reported by Slate, the effort underway by the Center for American Progress may produce only limited benefits. This is because it focuses only on the actual expungement of records from the original jurisdiction or law enforcement entity involved. It does not include efforts to manage the initial dissemination of arrest or conviction data. The problem with this approach is that criminal records can be and are often shared with multiple entities and end up in multiple places online.

Your health and field sobriety tests

Anyone in Virginia who is stopped by an officer while driving and then suspected of being impaired by alcohol may be asked to perform some tests at the location where they have been stopped. These are commonly referred to as field sobriety tests due to the location at which they are administered and because they are designed to get some assessment of a person's sobriety or impairment.

As explained by FieldSobrietyTests.org, none of these tests can prove that a person is drunk nor can they measure any level of intoxication. They are instead used to support the possibility that a person is impaired, thus allowing an officer to place them under arrest for suspected driving under the influence.

How fast does the body metabolize alcohol?

Throughout your life, you have likely heard how registering a blood-alcohol content reading greater than .08 on a roadside sobriety test in Roanoke automatically indicates that you are guilty of driving under the influence. Why, then, will law enforcement officials often conduct a more thorough chemical test later on? Could it be because the results of a handheld breath measurement are not totally reliable? Indeed, many states have determined that the results of such tests are not admissible in DUI cases due to the large margin of error associated with such equipment. 

Law enforcement officials might claim that registering a .08 BAC reading on a handheld device and then having a much lower result on s subsequent test simply means that your body metabolized the alcohol in your system in the time between the tests. If you understand how quickly (or slowly) the body metabolizes alcohol, challenging such an assertion becomes much easier. 

What issues affect the accuracy of chemical breath tests?

Any test, no matter how carefully developed or well administered, can occasionally have inaccurate or inconclusive results. Standardized testing systems simply do not work well for all people. This is true of standardized testing in schools, as well as medical and chemical testing of the human body.

The system used for chemical breath test during roadside traffic stops is a perfect example. When law enforcement officers suspect that someone may be under the influences of alcohol while driving, they have the right to request that that person perform a chemical breath test as part of a roadside stop or enforcement checkpoint. Failing such a test often results in immediate arrest, as well as criminal charges.

State missing criminal conviction records

People in Virginia who have been arrested for and convicted of a criminal offense commonly have their fingerprints taken at some point. This often happens when a person is booked into a prison or jail or when they begin a probation sentence. Most people who have had their fingerprints taken assume that the records will be in the state criminal justice system and that these prints are part of the information reviewed during a background search.

Background searches may be used in a variety of situations including pre-employment checks and pre-gun purchase checks. The Washington Post recently reported that the state of Virginia has discovered that its criminal records accessed in these background checks are missing as many as 750,000 entries. Of those, nine out of ten are said to not be in the system because there are no accompanying fingerprints.

Can you get restricted driving privileges following a DUI?

Being convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Roanoke automatically results in the revocation of your drivers' license. What it does not change is the responsibilities inherent with your daily routine, which may include going to work, attending school or transporting family members or friends to various destinations. Needless to say, that becomes very difficult to do if you cannot drive. This may prompt the question as to whether there exists a way to regain your driving privileges following a DUI conviction (if only on a limited basis)? 

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, you can petition for restricted driving privileges that allow you to drive on a limited basis (to work, school or to receive treatment for medical or psychiatric conditions). If this DUI conviction is your first, then you can file your petition with the DMV on the date of your conviction. If your application is approved, your restricted driving privileges will typically remain in place (barring any violations) up until your drivers' license is reinstated. 

2018 bills facilitate some expungements

Perhaps one of the hardest things that people arrested for minor indiscretions in Virginia must deal with is the long-term implications of having a criminal record. Potential employers, landlords, lenders and more often complete thorough background checks on people before making final decisions about employment, housing or loans and even a small blemish on people's records might hamper their ability to make a positive step forward in their lives. 

Fortunately, 2018 saw the passage of some new bills that aimed to help Virginia residents have convictions or arrests expunged. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Senate Bill 403 was passed and it opens up the possibility of an expungement after successful completion of probation and the passage of five years after a case involving a minor in possession of alcohol or marijuana. 

How to successfully fight a traffic ticket

If you receive a traffic ticket, you have a big decision to make. You can either pay the ticket and deal with the consequences, or you can fight back in the hope of avoiding any type of punishment.

Many factors will impact your decision, such as your driving record, why you were pulled over and the potential consequences.

How does speeding affect your driving privileges?

If you notice that you speed a lot and you have received tickets in the past for speeding, you may be on the fast track to having your license suspended in Virginia. Whether going faster than the posted speed helps you to feel more productive, is thrilling or is merely a bad habit for you, continual violation of a vital traffic law can undoubtedly affect your driving privileges. 

If you have only received one speeding ticket, you will most likely be required to pay a fine. The amount you are asked to pay will vary depending on whether or not you were speeding in a restricted area such as a school zone, how fast you were going and whether or not you were violating any other traffic laws at the same time. You may even be given the option to attend traffic school to reduce the collateral damage that your infraction has on your insurance. 

Felony drunk driving charges in Virginia

Most people in Virginia may be aware that a charge of driving while intoxicated is a criminal offense. A conviction, therefore, leaves a person with a criminal record. Certainly, nobody wants to have a criminal record on file but some people might too easily dismiss these charges as many drunk driving charges are misdemeanors so drivers might not consider them too serious. However, it is important to be aware that some DWI offenses can actually be felonies.

As explained by the Code of Virginia, if a person is charged with a driving while intoxicated offense for the third time within the span of 10 years, they may be charged with a Class 6 felony. Because felonies are more serious offenses that misdemeanors, the penalties associated with a felony DWI conviction may be more severe. Also, the criminal record will reflect a felony conviction for any future employers, landlords or lenders to see.

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