Dealing with a DUI Checkpoint in Virginia

Fairfax DUI CheckpointEven if you haven’t been drinking, seeing a DUI checkpoint ahead can make you apprehensive and nervous. Agencies are required to announce the location of DUI checkpoints.  You should look in local newspapers and government websites for announcements. Checkpoints are often located on major roadways connecting entertainment areas or on the way out of town.  They are often scheduled for weekends or around major holidays.

Here are a few things to consider as you approach a DUI checkpoint  in Fairfax County or Northern Virginia.

Follow these suggestions and the encounter may go much easier than you anticipated.  Of course if you have been drinking heavily and decided to drive, you may not remember these instructions… so … if you plan to drink to the point where you are really concerned about getting arrested at a DUI checkpoint, call a taxi.

1. First  – Don’t panic.

Slow down and proceed normally until you are actually stopped by an law enforcement officer.Don’t make a U-turn and drive away. Even if you haven’t been drinking and just want to avoid a delay, any evasion of the checkpoint draws the attention of the police to your car.  In my experience, the Fairfax or Prince William County police officers conducting the DUI checkpoint will likely radio other officers to pull you over.   The DUI plans in Virginia designate this car the “chase vehicle.”

2. Proceed slowly
There is a very good chance you be stopped. It is not legal for the police to detain every car at a Virginia DUI checkpoint.   Most DUI checkpoint plans use a mathematical formula to determine which cars to pull over.  The Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William County Police must maintain a copy of the plan and the mathematical formula in case the checkpoint is challenged in court.

3. Just do what they tell you.
If your car is directed to be detained, it’s just like being pulled over.  Have your license and registration ready to hand to the officer.  They will most likely ask for these documents, so just pull them out while you’re waiting in line.

4. Don’t say much to the officer. 
Federal law states that law enforcement officers must minimize the amount of time they detain your vehicle. This means they can only ask you to step out of your vehicle and take a field sobriety test if the officer feels you exhibit obvious signs of intoxication: glassy eyes, slurred speech, smell of alcohol in the car, etc. Remember, even saying something to the effect of “I’ve only had one drink,”  can be interpreted as a confession and lead to further questioning.  Your best bet if asked this question is to politely ask if you are free to leave without answering any further questions.

5. Be cooperative with the police but firm.
If the police officer orders you out of the car, do so.  If the officer merely asks to step out, ask him or her if you are required to do so, because you would rather be on your way.

In Virginia, you are not required to perform any Field Sobriety Tests.  These tests are difficult for healthy and fit people to pass. The tests are meant to divide a person’s attention, so when you are nervous, cold and under pressure on the side of a road. these tests are extremely difficult. You may choose to decline the tests, but be aware you may be placed under arrest.  However, if you attempt to do the tests and fail, you may be arrested anyway and you provided evidence to the police that can be used for conviction.

6. You are not required to blow into any handheld device
This machine is called a preliminary breath test.  It is voluntary under Virginia law.  The officers often say they are required to offer the test to you, but it is still voluntary.  The officer may even say that the test can’t be used in court (Untrue!).  If your breath registers above a .07 BAC, you may be arrested.  You may choose to decline the tests, but be aware you may be placed under arrest.  However, if you attempt to do the tests and fail, you may be arrested anyway and you provided evidence to the police that can be used to justify your arrest.  If you are in doubt as to your Breath Alcohol Level, you must use your judgment based upon this information.

7.  Virginia Implied Consent applies to the breath test that is hooked up to a computer or a blood test.

The machine used in Virginia is the EC/IR 2.  If you have never been convicted of a DUI before, the maximum punishment for declining to blow into the machine is a 12 month loss of your driving privileges in Virginia and a civil penalty.  You may not  drive at all in Virginia for 12 months.  However, if you blow into the machine and you register above a .07 BAC, you have provided the police the best evidence of your intoxication and may lead to a permanent criminal conviction for DUI.  Again, use your judgment.

9 Ways to Have a Safer Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving gets closer we can plan ahead for what can be a hectic time in our home.  Although we love our family and guests things can get our of hand quickly. It is easy to get distracted when cooking, so before the cooking begins, be sure to take precautions.

State Fire Marshal James Greeson said “The holidays are an important time to be sure your smoke alarms are working”.   “Thanksgiving is the leading day for home cooking fires, and cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire-related injuries. The importance of working smoke alarms cannot be stressed enough.”

The following are some important safety tips that are applicable year-round, but are especially important during the holiday season.

  • Stay in the kitchen while cooking food. If there is a need to leave the kitchen even for a short period, turn off the stove.
  • Check cooking food regularly and remain in the home while it is cooking.
  • Keep any flammable objects, such as oven mitts, utensils, food packages, and towels away from the stovetop.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
  • Keep a lid nearby when cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • In the event of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
  • Turkey fryers or other deep fryers should always be used outdoors, a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.
  • Have working smoke alarms on all levels of the house, including the basement. Ideally smoke alarms will be near every sleeping area.
  • Be aware that alcohol can impair the judgment of your guests.  If someone plans to drive home, make sure they are sober.  If not, take away the keys and call them a taxi.  You want them around and alive for next Thanksgiving.  Of course a DUI arrest can also have a severe impact on the guest’s budget for Christmas gift giving as well.


Grandfather Pleads Guilty to Child Endangerment for Driving 95mph

In Hopewell County last year, 58 year old Isaiah Hall was stopped for doing 95mph on interstate 295. He had six children and an adult daughter inside his van at the time he was stopped. The kids, ages ranging from 4 to 15, were unrestrained. Hall was arrested on three counts of felony child endangerment and driving on a suspended license.

Once Hall had been transported to jail, officers discovered two paper baggies of heroin where he was sitting in the cruiser. They lifted up the backseat and found three more baggies of heroin. Hall admitted to taking heroin about 6 hours before he had been stopped.

On Wednesday, March 27th, Hall pleaded guilty in Hopewell Circuit Court to possession of heroin and three counts child endangerment. In Hopewell County General District he was found guilty of reckless driving (for driving 95mph), driving on a suspended license, two counts of improper restraint for children younger than 7 and four counts of improper restraint for children over 7.

Hall will be sentenced May 22nd, 2013 and is expected to receive no more than up to one year in jail.

Reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor; penalties can include up to 12 months in jail, up to a $2,500.00 fine and license suspension for up to 6 months time. Possession of Heroin, more formally known as Possession of a Schedule I or II drug, is a class 5 felony that carries a possible jail sentence of not less than one year nor more than 10 years in prison. In some cases one can receive up to a $2,500.00 fine and not more than one year in jail.

If you or someone you know is being accused of reckless driving or possession of drugs call The Gordon Law Firm for your free consultation at 703-218-8416.

Cowboys Josh Brent Driving No Less Than 110mph Night of Fatal Crash; Pistorius Released on Bond

Josh Brent May Have Driven as Fast as 134MPH

After a night of drinking in December 2012, Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent was careening down the highway in his 2007 Mercedes s60 when hit a curb, lost control of the car and flipped. This ultimately killed his passenger, teammate Jerry Brown.  New evidence shows that Brent was driving at a minimum speed of 110mph, and could have been driving as fast as 134mph. Brent was driving, not only with a suspended license, but with a .189% BAC which is more than twice the legal limit in Texas. His license was suspended from a prior DUI conviction in Illinois. Although out on $100,000 bond, Brent is facing a charge of intoxication manslaughter, which could land him in prison for a minimum of 20 years.


Pistorius Out on Bail

Olympian Oscar Pistorius has been freed on bail in the amount of 1 million rand, which converts to $112,803 USD. The “Blade Runner” is accused of premeditated murder in the death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Reports say Pistorius heard rustling in his bathroom, got up, retrieved his gun and shot four times at the bathroom door. He found Steenkamp shot dead and claims he thought his home was being burglarized. In South Africa there are no jury trials; all cases are handled by judges.


Got caught driving drunk? Accidentally shot someone to death? Call The Gordon Law Firm for your free consultation at 703-218-8416 and let our experienced defense attorneys put your mind at ease.



Drunk Driving in Ireland?! Smoking in Your Own Car, Illegal?! Plus More!

Rural County in Ireland Pushes to Allow Drunk Driving

Councillor Danny Healy-Rae brought forth a motion in January 2013 to allow citizens of Kerry County to drive home after consumption of a couple or a few alcoholic beverages. He argues that the roads in this very rural area of Ireland cannot be taken more than 20-30mph. Combined with the sparse population, he feels there is little to no threat of fatality if someone has a couple of pints and drives home. Mr. Healy understands the need for strict punishment of DUIs in more populated areas, but out in the rural area of Kerry County people often get depressed and the pub is often their only outlet.

The mayor of Kerry, Terry O’Brien, opposes it, sticking by the logic that drinking and driving can be a fatal match. However, the motion to allow it passed by a vote of 5 to 3. While it’s not legal to have a few and get behind the wheel of a car yet, the motion is now up to Ireland’s Minister of Justice to consider.


Virginia Nixes Law Making it Illegal to Cohabitate

Recently, Virginia Senate met and approved, with no qualms,  SB969 which would  repeal all fines and criminal punishment for unmarried cohabitation. It was a long standing law in Virginia that shacking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend could lead to a $500-$2,500 fine. Of course, that law was rarely, if ever, enforced.


No Smoking in Your Own Car with Child in backseat

Another bill in question, the Virginia Senate approved SB975 which would cost drivers smoking with children younger than 15 years in a car a $100 fine plus court costs. The bill is now going to the House of Delegates, that rejected a similar bill within the year.


New Aspen Mayor Posts New Speed Limit : 14mph

Having had enough of rushing motorists blazing through side street stop signs to cut by interstate traffic, New Aspen mayor Mick Ireland deployed a unique tactic: a 14mph speed limit. After several attempts to slow traffic, like bollards (posts in the middle of the road), additional police patrolling and more stop signs, it seemed nothing would work. Ireland took inspiration from a resident. They brought to his attention that in Europe, traffic studies show that when speeds are lowered in residential areas less accidents and fatalities happened.

Ireland quickly acted to make residential area speed limits 14mph stating that it is such an oddball number that it will stick in someone’s head. Police won’t be handing out tickets to people going a few miles over the speed limit, and Ireland is hoping that the new limit will help curb the number accidents and fatalities. He’s aiming to make it a law; as for now, it’s just a speed limit.


Here in the US, especially in Virginia, speeding, reckless driving and DUIs are not treated lightly. They can carry very hefty penalties and jail time. If you or a loved one is facing a traffic misdemeanor charge please call The Gordon Law Firm at 703-218-8416 or toll-free at 866-591-NOVA for your free consultation.

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