In 2008, there were 27,732 arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) in Virginia, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Those arrested for DUI face serious consequences to their driving privileges, either administratively through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or through court action.
Suspension, Revocation and Disqualification
Administrative license suspension occurs immediately upon arrest for a DUI and is not dependent upon conviction. Driving privileges of first-time offenders are suspended for seven days; upon a second offense, suspension occurs until trial or up to 60 days, whichever is shorter. Upon conviction for a DUI offense, the court will revoke driving privileges for at least one year.
The Department of Social Services may also suspend, revoke or disqualify driving privileges based on certain circumstances such as failure to pay child support as directed in a court order.
A license suspension is a temporary withdrawal of driving privileges and may occur for failure to pay court fines and costs, failure to maintain proper insurance, excessive accumulation of demerit points related to convictions for traffic violations or for similar offenses.
Unlike suspension, if a driver's license is revoked, he or she cannot drive at all in Virginia. A revoked driver must apply to have his or her license reinstated and must comply with the terms of the revocation including paying the fees associated with a new license and re-taking all tests required to obtain a license. A revocation may occur as a result of:
- Driving while the driver is suspended or revoked after a DUI conviction
- Charges of manslaughter after a death caused by a car accident
- Certain other convictions including having three or more demerit-point convictions on your driving record
Disqualification applies to those with a commercial driver's license (CDL) - it is similar to a revocation or suspension. While a CDL disqualification does not apply to a regular driver's license, it can be based on traffic violations received while operating a non-commercial vehicle.
Both federal and state laws govern CDL disqualifications, which can occur for what the state of Virginia considers serious offenses, major offenses (such as DUI), violations of out-of-service orders and railroad-highway grade crossing offenses.
Reinstating Driving Privileges in Virginia
Drivers who wish to have their privileges reinstated may request a compliance summary from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which will outline individual reinstatement requirements. The requirements vary depending on individual circumstances and may require the driver to go to the DMV center to provide proof of ID or residence, take a driver's license skills test, or provide a court order.
Some drivers may not be required go personally to the DMV if they are only required to provide proof of:
- Payment of court fines and costs
- Completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP)
- A payment agreement, bankruptcy filing or proof of judgment that has been paid in full.
Other reinstatement requirements that may be satisfied without a personal appearance at the DMV include:
- Attendance at a driver improvement clinic
- Conducting a VASAP intervention interview
- Payment of reinstatement and licensing fees
Once a driver whose license has been suspended complies with the terms of the suspension, including all reinstatement requirements, the DMV will reissue the driver's license.
Prior to July 1999, certain drivers with multiple offenses (at least three major convictions or 12 minor convictions) within a ten year period may have been declared a habitual offender. Habitual offenders with at least one conviction for DUI can seek restricted driving privileges three years from the date of declaration as a habitual offender. Habitual offenders may seek restoration of full driving privileges five years after the date of declaration as a habitual offender.
If declared a habitual offender, the driver must seek restoration through the courts, either by petitioning the court in which he or she was declared a habitual offender or, if the declaration came from the DMV, by petitioning the court in the city or county where the driver lives. If an out of state driver is declared a habitual offender by the DMV, he or she may petition any circuit court. When seeking license restoration, the driver:
- Should send a copy of the petition for restoration of driving privileges to the DMV and another copy to the commonwealth's attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction
- Obtain a hearing date; the court will wait at least 30 days after receiving the petition before setting the date
- May be ordered to receive an evaluation from VASAP; the results of such evaluation will be reported to the court prior to the hearing date
If the petition is granted, the driver must comply with any other outstanding DMV suspensions and then take and pass the driver's license exam.
Habitual offenders' driving privileges have been revoked and driving after declaration is a serious offense. Conviction for driving after conviction will result in jail time of at least 90 days and possibly additional fines. Even a first time violation can be treated as a felony punishable by one to five years in prison.
Anyone arrested for DUI should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately for help fighting the criminal charge as well as assistance in restoring or reinstating driving privileges.