Depending upon the circumstances, a drunk driving charge in Virginia can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony. How a DUI is classified makes a significant difference in terms of what punishment you will be facing.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony
As a general rule of thumb, courts in the United States consider a crime punishable by incarceration for up to a maximum of one year to be a misdemeanor. If the crime carries a penalty of incarceration for one year or more, it is considered a felony.
In the majority of cases, a Virginia DUI arrest is considered a misdemeanor. You will only be charged with a felony if it is your third offense within a 10-year time period. A third offense DUI is prosecuted as a Class 6 Felony.
Penalties for a Misdemeanor DUI
Do not make the mistake of failing to take a DUI charge seriously because it's classified as a misdemeanor. Penalties for a first-time DUI offense for a person age 21 or over include:
- A mandatory minimum $250 fine
- License revocation for one year
- Mandatory minimum 5-day jail term if your BAC is 0.15% to 0.20% or a mandatory minimum 10-day jail term if your BAC is 0.20% or higher
- Mandatory 5-day jail term if you were transporting a passenger age 17 or younger at the time of your arrest, plus an additional fine of between $500 and $1,000
DUI penalties are assessed regardless of whether you cause an accident. If someone is hurt or property damage is involved, you may be facing additional charges.
Virginia law enforcement officers automatically report a DUI to the Central Criminal Records Exchange at the time of your arrest, leaving you with the potential for a criminal record that can impact your future employment opportunities and general reputation.
Protecting Your Rights
If you've been charged with a DUI, enlisting the services of a skilled attorney is a must. Even a first-time DUI conviction can have major consequences for your future.
T. Kevin Wilson is on the cutting edge of DUI defense, with specialized education, training, and experience in areas such as breathalyzer accuracy and field sobriety testing. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.