A DUI sentence enhancement can increase the already stiff penalties for a DUI conviction. All 50 states, including Virginia, have DUI laws with provisions that allow for additional punishment through enhanced sentencing. These DUI sentence enhancements may include mandatory jail time, higher fines and a longer license suspension.
The legal criteria for a DUI sentence enhancement is either a factual or legal circumstance that indicates that a driver poses a greater risk to public safety. There are a few circumstances that can trigger a DUI sentence enhancement.
A previous DUI conviction is grounds for a sentence enhancement in every state. Some states will enhance a sentence for a DUI from the past 5 or 10 years, and others will enhance sentences no matter how far back it went. In many states, the refusal to take a breath test can result in additional penalties. Depending on the state, refusing a breath test can result in license revocation or mandatory jail time. However, according to a June 2016 Supreme Court ruling, states cannot give enhanced sentences for a refusal to take a urine or blood test unless police first obtained a warrant. A high blood alcohol level can also result in additional penalties.
Other factors can cause someone to get an enhanced sentence. For instance, if a defendant drove under the influence and crashed his or her car, then additional penalties might be applied for factors such as property damage, child endangerment or bodily injury. The other circumstances that can result in enhanced sentencing include probation for another conviction, the possession of an open container of alcohol, driving a vehicle with an ignition interlock device, multiple prior convictions and the lack of a valid driver’s license.
Many states exact stiff penalties for DUI and increase them penalties significantly through sentence enhancements. An individual who has been charged with a DUI may be levied with additional penalties, like mandatory jail time, fines and the loss of his or her driving privileges. A criminal defense attorney with experience in DUI can explain current DUI laws and explore potential defense options to someone facing DUI charges.