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DUI Law in Virginia
Virginia is notorious for its tough criminal justice system, and the state’s impaired driving laws are no exception. There are a few different types of impaired driving/DUI laws in Virginia; Virginia Code § 18.2-266 breaks these laws up into three main categories: Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), and Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana/Other Drugs (DUID). Each of these charges carries the same maximum penalty, but defendants with prior offenses or whose Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) crosses certain thresholds will face additional punishment.
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Virginia DUI Limit
If you are pulled over on suspicion of intoxication, the officer might ask you to take a test to identify whether there’s alcohol in your system. In Virginia, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle if you have a BAC of .08 or more per 210 liters of breath or if a judge determines that you were under the influence of alcohol. A breath test determines whether your BAC was over the legal limit, and a judge determines whether you were under the influence.
The police cannot force you to take a breath test. However, if it is proven that you unreasonably refused to take the test, your license will be automatically suspended for a year, even if you are not convicted of an impaired driving offense. This also means that you will not be eligible for a restricted license, which typical first-time offenders may receive. If you are pulled over again and refuse to take the test a second time, you will face an automatic license suspension of three years and you could be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. Just remember: you have a right to remain silent — use it, and then contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
DWI vs DUI Virginia
In Virginia, a DUI is simply driving under the influence. There is no BAC level that needs to be met for these serious traffic offenses. If an officer observes you driving in a manner that indicates you might be impaired, they will pull you over. The officer will then ask you to perform sobriety tests that will help the officer decide whether you are impaired.
A DWI is what people commonly think of as drunk driving. If you were operating a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 or above, you are guilty of DWI. An officer will pull you over initially for a DUI in VA, and if your BAC is found to be over .08 during the officer’s investigation, you will be charged with a DWI.
DUI Virginia First Offense Penalties
A first-offense DWI, DUID, or DUI charge is a class 1 misdemeanor—the most serious type of misdemeanor—in Virginia. If you are convicted of one of these charges, you could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. You will also face a one-year driver’s license suspension.
Additional First Offense DUI Penalty Virginia
In addition to criminal penalties, you will be required to complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) in order to have your license reinstated. If you are granted a restricted driver’s license, you will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle that is registered to you.
Virginia DUI and DWI Enhancements
While many first offenders will avoid jail time, it is always a possibility. Based on the specific circumstances of your case, you may be facing mandatory jail time regardless of your first offender status.
These factors include:
- Elevated Blood Alcohol Content (BAC): A .08 BAC is what is required to charge a person with DWI. If you are convicted of a DWI and your BAC was between .15 and .20, you will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 5 days in jail. The mandatory minimum increases to 10 days if your DWI results in a BAC over .20.
- Minor in the Vehicle: If you had a minor under the age of 18 in your vehicle at the time of your arrest and you are convicted of an impaired driving offense, you will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 5 days in jail, as well as be fined up to $1,000.
What Is the Punishment for DUI in Virginia?
Virginia breaks up punishments for a second impaired driving offense into two categories: second within 10 years and second within 5 years. If convicted of a second impaired driving offense, you will be required to equip your vehicle with an ignition interlock device for the first 6 months after your driver’s license is given back to you.
Second and Third Virginia DUI Penalties
If you are convicted of a second impaired driving offense within 10 years of your first, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 days and up to 12 months in jail. You will also face a fine of up to $2,500 and your license will be suspended for 3 years. If your BAC was between .15 and .20, you face a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 20 days. If your BAC was above .20, you face a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail.
If you are convicted of a second impaired driving offense within 5 years of your first, you face a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 20 days and up to 12 months. You will also face a fine of up to $2,500 and your license will be suspended for 3 years. If your BAC was between .15 and .20, you face a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days. If your BAC was above .20, you face a mandatory minimum of 40 days in jail.
If you are convicted of a third impaired driving offense in Virginia, your driver’s license will be revoked indefinitely (possibly permanently). In addition, a third impaired driving offense is charged as a felony, not a misdemeanor. This means larger mandatory fines (minimum of $1,000) and prison sentences.
If you are convicted of a third impaired driving offense within 10 years, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days and up to 5 years in prison. If you are convicted of a third impaired driving offense within 5 years, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 6 months and up to 5 years in prison. For either of these convictions, you will also face a permanent forfeiture of your vehicle in addition to the loss of your driver’s license.
Contact an Attorney About DUI in Virginia
Impaired driving crimes are extremely common in Virginia and thus have a lot of legal precedents. In addition to what is talked about on this page, there are a number of other possible ramifications that could result from an impaired driving conviction or even just an arrest.
Further, thanks to Virginia’s extremely stringent expungement requirements, an impaired driving conviction will be permanently displayed on your criminal record. If you have been charged with any DWI, DUI, or DUID, it is imperative that you hire an experienced DUI attorney who is familiar with Virginia DUI law. A DUI lawyer will guide you through the confusing process and will know how to best defend you based on the circumstances of your arrest.
Jay P. Mykytiuk of Scrofano Law PC has over a decade of experience defending clients in Northern Virginia courts. Attorney Mykytiuk has successfully handled countless DUI, DWI, and DUID cases and is familiar with the judges and prosecutors of Northern Virginia. If you have been charged with any type of impaired driving crime, contact our office immediately for a consultation.