There are a number of factors that can elevate a typical misdemeanor DUI into a charge that carries serious consequences.
While many DUI charges in Virginia are considered misdemeanors, there are certain factors that will elevate the consequences of a conviction. For example, last year, a Roanoke man drove the wrong way on Interstate 81. According to WDBJ7, he caused a head-on collision that seriously injured the other car's 17-year-old driver and caused injuries to several other people.
The man had an alcohol level twice the legal limit and was charged with driving under the influence as well as two counts of felony maiming. He was sentenced to serve more than eight years in prison. Anyone facing a DUI charge should be aware of the possible punishment involved when the following factors are present:
1. Multiple offenses
According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, someone's first DUI conviction will typically merit a minimum fine of $250 as well as a one-year license revocation. However, a second DUI conviction will up the fine to at least $500, result in a three-year driver's license revocation and lead to the possibility of up to a year in jail.
A third DUI conviction will mean that a driver loses his or her license indefinitely. Further, there is a mandatory fine of at least $1,000, and the charge will be prosecuted as a felony. For a fourth conviction, there is an additional minimum sentence of one year in jail.
2. Multiple offenses in a certain time frame
There are several scenarios for multiple convictions in a certain time frame, and those are the following:
- If someone receives a second DUI conviction within 10 years of the first, there is an automatic jail term of at least 10 days.
- A second conviction within five years of the first will have a mandatory 20-day jail term, possibly longer.
- Three DUI convictions in 10 years will result in indefinite revocation of a license, at least 90 days in jail and forfeiture of a vehicle that is solely owned.
Lastly, three DUI convictions in five years will tack on at least six months of jail time to other penalties.
3. Exceptionally high BAC
The Virginia DMV points out that anyone who registers a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.15 to 0.20 percent will have a minimum jail term of five days on the first offense. A second such offense within 10 years of the first will result in 10 days in jail at a minimum.
Any BAC higher than 0.20 percent will merit a minimum 10 days in jail, doubling that minimum for a second or subsequent offense.
4. Transporting children
At the time of the arrest, if there is a passenger 17 years or younger in the vehicle, state law mandates a five-day jail term on top of any other associated penalties. The fines may also increase.
5. Causing injury or death
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that should a drunk driver in Virginia cause an accident that results in serious injury or death, the result will be a felony charge. These charges can carry as much as 20 years in prison.
These consequences illustrate the importance of putting together a strong defense to any DUI charge. People who have questions about this matter should consult with an attorney.