Vermont DUI Laws & Attorneys
by Joshua Dale
Warning: In VT, the State will take your driving privilege and driver's license if you, or your lawyer, don't request and have a hearing to win it back. Don't lose your license without a hearing to save it!
According to various sources, Vermont, the Green Mountain State, is the healthiest, smartest and second least dangerous state in America. Vermont lawmakers are bound and determined to keep it that way. Legislators are discussing lowering the legal limit from .08% blood alcohol content (BAC) to .05% percent, which would make Vermont the state with the lowest legal BAC threshold in the country.
In Vermont the term DUI means Driving While Intoxicated and not having the normal use of your mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance or a combination of these or any other intoxicants into the body.
Every driver in Vermont has given their ‘implied consent’ for a blood alcohol content (BAC) test when they received a license. This means their breath, blood, or urine will be tested for alcohol and/or drugs when under the suspicion of a Vermont DUI charge. You should note that you have the right to a second test at your own expense at a place of your choice. When blood is drawn with or without a request from law enforcement, it is extremely important to have your Vermont DUI attorney contact the hospital or lab immediately with notice of the federal confidentiality law and to assert your patient’s rights regarding confidentiality of medical records.
The Vermont DUI ‘per se’ law states that a blood alcohol content of .08% by itself constitutes impairment to a degree that you are assumed to be unsafe behind the wheel. However, you can also be prosecuted for driving ‘under the influence’ if it can be proven that you were driving in an unsafe manner. Under this theory circumstantial evidence, such as slurred speech, blood shot, watery eyes, unbalanced coordination, hazardous driving, and field sobriety tests can be proof that a driver was ‘under the influence’.
If you haven’t been drinking or you believe that you might have been “impaired” from a benign source such as alcohol based paint or solvents, mouthwash, prescription or over-the-counter drugs be aware that you can still be arrested for a Vermont DUI, even though you are not “legally drunk”, and are still subject to ALR (automatic license revocation).
After being charged with a Vermont DUI you’re going to face two adversaries: the criminal courts, and the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If your license was suspended or revoked because of a DUI, you will be offered a formal hearing. You have the right to make a request within 10 days (after receiving a notice of driver’s license suspension) for an administrative hearing with the Vermont DMV to try avoiding losing driving privileges. Your license will be lost if a hearing is not requested, for not appearing, or for an unsuccessful outcome. DMV sanctions can also be imposed even if you are found not guilty in a criminal court case.
DMV hearings may be a crucial opportunity to let your Vermont DUI defense attorney cross-examine and rebut testimony, confront evidence offered by those involved in your arrest and investigation. It is possible to receive a driver’s license suspension for a DUI conviction and a suspension for a BAC test refusal or failure. DMV and court penalties may seem similar, but they are different. Both penalties usually run concurrently (at the same time).
Be advised that Vermont has an out-of-state Driver’s License Compact Agreement. This means that Vermont DUI convictions will be reported to your home state which will generally take action to suspend your license. Offenses for out-of-state drivers can also create other complications. Consequently, it’s imperative that you contact a local Vermont DUI attorney to walk you through the procedures and insure that you don’t face complications with bail, jail, and your driving privileges.
Across the country DUI laws and evidentiary procedures are being challenged, while at the same time state laws are becoming more severe. To be certain that you have the correct and current knowledge contact a Vermont DUI specialist. In any case, when you are stopped and arrested for suspicion of a Vermont DUI, request to see a DUI attorney, the sooner the better.
– Info You Should Know –
Was I Stopped Legally?
Basically you were stopped because of an equipment failure or an officer had probable cause to think you were driving in an impaired manner. Arrests for drunk driving in every state focuses on four areas: driving patterns, physical appearance, field sobriety tests, and chemical tests.
Not all reasons offered by officers are legal. Check with a Vermont DUI attorney who will examine all the different aspects of your case, will defend you aggressively and try to mitigate any penalties.
Should I Have Talked To the Cop?
Remember that you don’t have to answer any questions that will incriminate you. Most people say that they have had a "couple of drinks” which is not necessarily incriminating. However such "statements of consumption" will be used against them in court or at a hearing.
And if you plan to refuse a sobriety test – which may not be the best action – you should inform the officer who stopped you that you would rather wait until instructed by a Vermont DUI lawyer. But be advised if you refuse the test under the implied consent law you can lose your license on the spot, and probably for many months.
Did I Have A Right To Make A Call?
The police are not required to advise you of this right. But once a request is made, they are obligated to provide an opportunity to make a call, hopefully to a Vermont DUI specialist.
I’m Simply Going To Plead Guilty, Why Do I Need A Vermont DUI Lawyer?
The penalties and the numerous, complicated laws relating to motor vehicles, DUI charges and Vermont drunk driving laws should be taken very seriously. Vermont DUI convictions and penalties can be long lasting and severe, both in court and with the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, which regulates your driving privileges.
Experienced and skilled legal counsel may be able to help maximize your defenses thereby mitigating your penalties. A Vermont DUI defense attorney will level the playing field between you and the prosecution in an effort to provide and preserve your constitutional rights.
When considering consulting a Vermont DUI attorney, take into account the impact of a criminal conviction: possible loss of voting privileges, increased cost or cancellation of auto insurance, lost educational opportunities, inability to rent or own cars, restrictions on travel, damage to security clearances, job barriers, possible harm to professional credentials or certifications, and the loss of freedom. Don’t you think these rights, possessions, achievements and abilities are worth protecting?
What’s A Vermont DUI Defense Attorney Going To Cost?
One of the biggest concerns for people charged with driving while intoxicated is attorney fees. As cases vary, so does cost. Most people don’t realize that money spent now on skillful help from a Vermont DUI attorney might save them thousands of dollars in the years to come.
What Are Court Costs?
Additional costs outside of the fine for court or administrative services, regulated by state penal or vehicle codes violated. They can be costly.
Did I Have To Take a Field Sobriety Test (FST)?
Unlike blood and breath testing, submitting to a "field sobriety test" is voluntary, but do not expect an officer to inform you of this. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the only tests that have been shown to have some relevance to establishing legal intoxication are the One Leg Stand, the Heel-to Toe and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). The results of these tests will be entered as evidence against you. But even under laboratory conditions, these tests have only been established to be accurate in predicting blood alcohol content above .10% in 66% to 77% of the time.
What if I Refused To Take a BAC (blood alcohol content) Test?
Refusal can carry penalties which may be more severe than a DUI conviction. The arresting officer will take your license and it will be automatically suspended. You may request a hearing within 10 days of the arrest to contest the validity of the confiscation or driver’s license suspension.
This hearing is not a trial and producing evidence of innocence and the burden of proof bears upon the accused.
Can I Plea Bargain?
After being arraigned, your DUI attorney will meet with the prosecutor to negotiate the merits of your case. Court dates are crowded so it is not unusual for a DUI case to seem mired in delays. However, delay can work to your benefit as prosecutors and judges work to try to clear court calendars.
A plea bargain means that you agree to plead guilty to some lesser charge or having your attorney and prosecutor mitigate the penalties. Practiced Vermont DUI attorneys often times will be able to negotiate a plea to a lesser charge as many cases are resolved prior to trial. The plea bargain is extremely advantageous to anyone accused of a Vermont DUI, but remember even a conviction to a lesser charge will still count as a ‘prior’ for calculating penalties for future offenses.
It is next to impossible to plea bargain a Vermont drunk driving charge without an experienced Vermont DUI lawyer. Often effective DUI counsel will be able to negotiate a plea to a lesser charge.
I’ve Heard of A Nolo Contendere Plea, What Is It?
In legal terms, nolo contendere (Latin for “I do not wish to contest”) is an alternative to a guilty or not guilty plea. While not technically a guilty plea, a nolo plea has many of the same effects, but with some mitigating circumstances. In most states you can only plea nolo once in DUI cases. Generally a judge decides whether a nolo plea will be accepted, and it is not always available.
In any case, without services of a veteran Vermont DUI specialist, specialized pleas or plea bargaining is not possible.
Is Being Punished by the Vermont DMV and the Criminal Courts Double Jeopardy?
Like most states, Vermont law permits the enforcement of administrative penalties in addition to court punishments, as the state considers driving a privilege, not a right, and not subject to civil liberties. The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles administers driver’s licenses, imposes civil penalties, serves as the judge, jury and also deals out punishment.
What if I Am An Out-Of-State Driver?
Vermont DUI convictions will be reported to your home state which will generally take action to suspend your license. Offenses for out-of-state drivers can also create other complications. Consequently, it’s imperative that you contact a local Vermont DUI attorney to walk you through the procedures and insure that you don’t face complications with bail, jail, and your driving privileges.
Is There A Look Back Period in Vermont?
A look back period is the amount of time that has to pass before a judge can look back into your driving record to use past convictions to increase present penalties The look back period in Vermont is your entire lifetime.
What Happens In Court?
You’ll have to make several appearances. In a criminal case you have the right to a jury trial with presumption of innocence, but once convicted, it can be up to the judge what punishment you will receive. The sentencing range, and whether the offense will be a misdemeanor or a felony, is based on a number of things including the number of prior convictions including any previous Vermont administrative or criminal court drunk driving suspensions, for refusal to submit to a BAC test, or any ‘operating while intoxicated’ convictions in other states. There are also penalty enhancements due to aggravated circumstances.
In addition, a judge may require you to participate in alcohol or drug treatment programs as part of a parole (probation) program or have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle, or even have your vehicle seized and forfeited.
Are There Alternatives to Jail?
Your Vermont DUI specialist may be able to make arrangements for drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, sober living homes, home arrest with electronic monitoring, work release programs and community service.
Can I Get a Hardship Driver's License?
Vermont law does not provide for a "hardship” or “work” license. Call you local DMV office for further information.
What About Enhanced Punishments For Vermont DUI Convictions?
Many circumstances may lead to sentence enhancements: prior DUI convictions, BAC level at or above .16%, the presence of a child in the car ($2,500 fine and one year in prison), speeding, reckless driving an elevated BAC level, or causing an accident with injuries or property damage.
Any time you face multiple or ‘aggravated’ charges, or if death, injuries or sizeable property damage occurs, the fallout for Vermont multiple convictions will get very heavy, including thousands of dollars in fines, mandatory years of imprisonment, massive restitution and a loss of license and vehicles for years, if not permanently. In case of death or injury an offender can be fined from $5,000 to $15,000 and be jailed from 1 to 15 years.
Consequently, we strongly recommend retaining an experienced Vermont DUI attorney in order to secure the best possible outcome of a potentially severe situation.
What About My Insurance?
Your insurance rates will probably increase or be cancelled. The state estimates that insurance premiums can escalate to over 300% in 5 years. Rates for your family members, or even for your employer (if you use a company car), may increase as well.
Penalties for Drunk Driving Offenses continued below
Get Yours Now
Free Defense Report
– Vermont DUI Criminal Penalties –
The court, in Vermont DUI cases, is allowed to look back on your entire driving history. There is no limit or ‘look back’ period on your Vermont DUI history even if you have been charged with a DUI in any other state. This will increase your penalties.
90 days to 2 years in jail.
Up to $750 in fines including Victim’s restitution fund, laboratory services fund, Public Defender’s fund, DUI enforcement fund).
6 months loss of license.
Substance abuse rehabilitation and education program including $300 fee.
60 days to 2 years in jail.
Up to $1,500 in fines (and the various other fines and fees).
18 months loss of license.
200 hours of community service.
Substance abuse rehabilitation and education program.
Up to 5 years in jail.
Up to $2,500 in fines.
Loss of license for life.
400 hours of community service.
Substance abuse rehabilitation and treatment.
Possible confiscation of vehicles for the period of loss of license and/or forfeiture and sale of vehicle.
.02% BAC (zero tolerance law means if you have any alcohol at all in your system you are guilty).
Penalties are the same as they are for adults.
– Vermont DMV Administrative Penalties –
1st offense: 90 days loss of license.
2nd offense: 18 months loss of license.
3rd offense: lifetime loss of license and possible vehicle confiscation.
Possible substance abuse education and programs.
Refusing BAC Test
1st refusal: 6 months loss of license.
2nd refusal: 18 months loss of license.
3rd refusal: 3 years loss of license.
Underage DUI 21
.02% BAC (zero tolerance law means if you have any alcohol at all in your system you are guilty).
Penalties are the same as adults.
Commercial Driver’s License
1st offense: 1 year disqualification.
2nd offense: possible lifetime disqualification. May be reinstated after 10 years.
3 years disqualification while hauling hazardous material with DUI.
Subsequent violations: lifetime loss of license.
– Disclaimer –
Only experienced Vermont DUI attorneys should provide you with bonafied legal advice concerning Vermont DUI laws. Consequently, the aforementioned information on this web site should not be construed as legal advice, rather suggestions and a range of helpful information and should not be substituted for speaking with accredited Vermont DUI attorneys. There is no warrantee, expressed or implied herein. These issues are complicated, laws change and litigation takes experience. Please let us refer you to a seasoned professional Vermont DUI attorney specializing in DUI cases.
– Citations –
Vermont State Code. DAI1/DA2/DA3/DCS/DCV/DC2/DC3/DC4/DC5/23 section 1206/1208/679/