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If you’ve just been arrested for a DWI in Fairfax County, chances are there’s a lot running through your mind right now. You’re scared and worried about what’s going to come next.

Unfortunately, with 7,285 alcohol-related crashes and 248 deaths in 2017, Virginia isn’t messing around.

If you’re charged with driving under the influence, you can’t afford to waste time. Here’s what you need to do immediately after an arrest.

Is It Your First Offense?

The first thing you need to do is ask yourself whether or not this is your first offense. It might seem like a minor detail, but it’s actually quite important.

If you’re younger than 21, regardless of whether or not this is your first offense, you’ll face penalties including:

  • License suspension
  • A fine of $500 or 50 hours of community service
  • Possible restricted driver’s license
  • Possible Alcohol Safety Action Program.

If you’re older than 21, things get more complicated.

If this is your first offense, penalties include:

  • Administrative license suspension for seven days
  • A fine up to $2500
  • License revocation for one year
  • Court-ordered restitution
  • Alcohol Safety Action Program
  • Ignition interlock device
  • Possible restricted driver’s license
  • Charges on your criminal record

If it’s your second offense, penalties get steeper, including:

  • Administrative license suspension for 60 days
  • A minimum $500 fine
  • Three years to Indefinite license revocation
  • Mandatory jail time (length depends on how long it was since your first offense)
  • Court-ordered restitution
  • Ignition interlock device
  • Possible restricted driver’s license
  • Charges on your criminal record

The charges get steeper with every subsequent offense. Charges will also be more or less severe depending on your blood alcohol content (BAC), the time period since your last offense, and the extent of the damage you caused to others.

Be Prepared to Lose Your License

Regardless of whether or not this is your first offense, you should be prepared to lose your license.

License suspension is mandatory for all drunk drivers. However, the length of the suspension varies based on whether or not this is your first offense and the length of time between previous DWI convictions.

Some states will allow you to apply for a restricted license, though not all.

Write Down Everything

If you are arrested for driving under the influence, you need to make sure to write everything down. And we do mean everything, even if it seems like an inconsequential detail.

DUI and DWI cases are won and lost based on these seemingly small details.

Because of these, you should write down every detail of your DUI as soon as it happens. Don’t assume you’ll remember because you won’t. Here are some questions you should be able to answer:

  • When were you stopped?
  • Where were you stopped?
  • Did the officer administer a breath test? If so, what did the device look like?
  • What sort of tests did they do? (i.e. eye tracking, walk and turn, etc.)
  • What reason did the officer give for stopping you?
  • What did you tell the officer about what you had to eat and drink?
  • Who was the officer who stopped you?

As soon as you’re able to after your stop, write down every detail you can remember.

Seek Legal Counsel

Once you’ve written down the details, it’s time to get down to business and seek legal counsel.

In theory, you could represent yourself, but chances are, you’re not going to win. Even if you are a lawyer yourself, it’s best to have a rational third party weigh in on your behalf.

You should look for a lawyer specializing in drunk driving offenses, preferably someone you’re comfortable working with. Remember, they’re going to spend a lot of time in your business telling you things you may not want to hear. The whole process will be a lot easier if you’re comfortable talking to them.

Keep to Yourself

That said, your attorney is the only person you should talk to about your DUI.

Remember the phrase in your Miranda warning, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law?”

They mean that. Anything you say about the case, including on social media, can be leveraged against you at a later date.

It’s a lot easier for your lawyer to do their job if they can focus on your case instead of putting out fires. Do them a favor and keep your thoughts on the case contained within lawyer-client confidentiality.

Gather Evidence and Witnesses

Once you have a lawyer who you’re comfortable working with, it’s time to start building your case.

This is twofold: gathering evidence and collecting witnesses.

Gathering evidence starts with the details you wrote down after your arrest. This will give your lawyer somewhere to start. However, it also includes any insurance paperwork that comes your way following the arrest, any court documents relevant to your case, and other similar details.

In addition, your lawyer is going to want to gather witnesses to tell your side of the story. Do them a favor here and talk to your family, friends, and acquaintances, especially those you saw immediately before, during, and after the incident.

You don’t need to spill every detail to them, but you should collect a roster of people who are willing to testify on your behalf.

Report to Court

Finally, you’re going to need to report to court, starting with your first arraignment.

While, in theory, you could do this without your lawyer, it’s frankly a bad idea. Remember, your lawyer’s job is to defend you, so make it easier for them by making yourself easy to defend.

Show up on time, dress well for the occasion, be polite and collected, stick to the script you discussed with your lawyer, and above all, let your lawyer do the arguing for you.

Charged with a DWI in Fairfax County?

If you’ve been charged with a DWI in Fairfax County, you don’t have time to waste. Find a lawyer who will fight for you so that you can get your life on track.

If you need to speak with an attorney, don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.

Areas of Practice

  • Criminal Law
  • Traffic Violations
  • Reckless Driving
  • Felonies and Misdemeanors

Bar Admissions

  • Virginia, 1985
  • District of Columbia, 1987
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia, 1985
  • U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, 1987
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit, 1985
  • U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims


  • University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, Virginia
    • J.D. - 1985
  • Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • B.A. magna cum laude - 1982
    • Honors: Phi Beta Kappa
    • Major: Economics & Philosophy
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