Like other states, Virginia considers drunk driving a serious offense and aggressively prosecutes this crime. You face harsh consequences and the long-term consequences of having a permanent criminal record if you are convicted.
However, you should not just plead guilty—even if you know you were driving after consuming alcohol or drugs. Instead, you need to immediately hire an experienced DUI lawyer who can mount an aggressive defense strategy that could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
What Is DUI in Virginia?
Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are used interchangeably and are basically the same offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia. There are a number of ways an individual can violate the DUI law in our state. Under Virginia Code §18.2-66, a person can be arrested for DUI or DWI for doing the following:
- Driving when their blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol even if their BAC is lower than 0.08 percent
- Driving while under the influence of a self-administered or narcotic drug or other intoxicant that impairs their ability to drive safely
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs or drugs that impair their ability to safely drive
- Driving with a certain blood content of cocaine, methamphetamine, phencyclidine, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine
Some individuals can be charged with DUI or DWI with a much lower BAC. They include:
- Drivers under 21 years old can be charged with these offenses if their BAC is 0.02 percent or higher
- Commercial drivers can be charged with DUI or DWI if their BAC is 0.04 percent or higher
Penalties for DUI in Virginia
DUI and DWI can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on whether this is a first offense or a repeat conviction. All carry strict punishments if you are convicted. In addition, you would have a permanent criminal record that could limit your ability to obtain employment, housing, education, and more.
First Offense Punishments
A first offense DUI or DWI would be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. You could face these punishments if you plead or are found guilty:
- You could be sentenced to up to one year in jail, but the judge can suspend the sentence. You would face a mandatory five-day jail sentence if your BAC was between 0.15 and 0.19 percent or a 10-day sentence if your BAC was 0.20 percent or higher.
- You could be ordered to pay a fine of between $500 and $2,500.
- You would be required to complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP).
- You may be placed on probation and be required to meet certain conditions, like meeting with a probation officer and not consuming alcohol.
- Your driver’s license would be suspended for one year, but you may be able to obtain a restricted license.
Second Offense Punishments
A second DUI or DWI charge is also a Class 1 misdemeanor offense. You may be sentenced to the following:
- You could be sentenced to a mandatory 20 days in jail if your conviction is within five years of your first conviction and 10 days in jail if the conviction was within 10 years of the first one. You would face an additional mandatory 10 days in jail if your BAC was between 0.15 and 0.19 percent or 20 days in jail if it was 0.20 percent or higher.
- You may have to pay a minimum fine of $500 or more.
- Your driver’s license would be suspended for three years. However, you may be able to obtain a restricted license.
- You would have to install an interlock ignition device on your vehicle for six months if you are granted a restricted license.
Third or Subsequent Offense Punishments
A third or subsequent charge of DUI or DWI would be a Class 6 felony. The punishments you would face would be harsher and could include:
- You could be sentenced to up to five years in prison if this is your third conviction or 10 years if this is your fourth conviction. You may face a mandatory minimum sentence if your conviction is within five or 10 years of your last conviction.
- You could have to pay a fine of between $1,000 to $2,500.
- Your driver’s license would be suspended indefinitely. You would have to wait three years before requesting a restricted license and five years before your driving privileges may be restored.
Contact Us If You Have Been Charged With DUI or DWI
If you have been charged with DUI or DWI in Virginia, our skilled DUI attorneys are here to help you. You may have strong defenses to the charges you face—even if you are guilty—that we can use to defend you so that you achieve the best possible outcome. Call our office or start a live chat today to learn how we can assist you and about our track record of success in defending other clients facing these charges.