Motorists on Virginia's scenic roads take note: if you drive under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs (even legal prescription medications if they have a sedating effect), you will be caught, and you will face stiff penalties.
Virginia's lawmakers have taken a firm stance against impaired driving in an attempt to slow the tide of DUI-related crashes, injuries and fatalities - an alcohol-related crash occurs about every two minutes somewhere in America, and every half an hour someone dies in one. Virginia's DUI laws are no-nonsense and provide some of the most severe consequences of any state in the nation.
How Are Virginia's Laws Different?
In a word - tougher. They are also more comprehensive, making no distinction between motor vehicles, boats, other watercraft, motorcycles, scooters and mopeds. If you are operating any motorized vehicle on any public roadway or waterway in the state, you are subject to these laws if you are impaired by a blood alcohol level of .08 percent (BAC) or greater or by a slowed reaction time due to the effects of an illicit or prescription drug.
Virginia gives police officials plenty of authority to investigate and arrest suspected drunken or drugged drivers. If an officer has probable cause that your impaired driving was the cause of a motor vehicle accident, you can be arrested at any location and without a warrant within a three-hour period following the collision.
Also, unlike in other states, Virginia does not offer motorists suspected of DUI a choice between a breath and blood test to determine blood alcohol levels. You have to take the test offered, and refusing to do so is a criminal offense in and of itself. A conviction on the charge of refusing to take a breath test will result in a drivers' license suspension of at least a year, with no option of seeking a restricted or special-needs license during that time. Additional refusals (of either breath or blood tests) will result in an additional period of administrative license suspension.
What Are the Penalties for a Conviction?
- Minimum $250 fine
- Administrative license revocation for one year
- Mandatory $500 fine
- License revocation for three years
- Possible incarceration for up to one year (a minimum of 10 days if the second conviction is within 10 years of a prior one; 20-day minimum if the second conviction is within five years)
- Mandatory $1,000 fine
- Indefinite license revocation (possibly permanent)
- Prosecution as a Class 6 felony
- Mandatory six-month jail sentence if all three convictions occur within a five-year period
- If all three are within a ten-year period, there is a mandatory 90-day jail term and civil forfeiture of your vehicle (if you own it free and clear)
The higher the BAC, the higher the stakes. If your BAC is .15 percent but less than .21 percent at the time of arrest, there is a mandatory minimum five-day jail sentence for a first offense in addition to the existing penalties. A BAC of .21 percent or more carries a minimum ten-day stay in jail. If an aggravated DUI like this one occurs twice in a 10-year period, the minimum jail sentence rises to 20 days.
Any DUI arrest or conviction will result in your having a criminal record. This could jeopardize future educational, financial, housing, and employment opportunities, regardless of whether you are over or under the age of 21.
Penalties for Drivers Under 21
Virginia has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking. If you are stopped after having consumed any amount of alcohol, you could lose your driving privileges. If the illegal consumption of alcohol results in a BAC of .02 (not rising to the level of a traditional impaired-driving level of .08), you still face a substantial fine of up to $500 and a license suspension of six months.
Someone underage who is arrested and charged with DUI (a BAC of .08 or more) faces penalties for illegal consumption of alcohol (commonly known as " minor possession" or "minor consumption") in addition to the traditional legal penalties for DUI.
Virginia's lawmakers and police agencies have taken an aggressive stance against drunk/drugged impaired driving, so if you are charged with one of these offenses, you need to be equally aggressive in your fight against them. Should you be facing charges of DUI, BUI, underage consumption or other alcohol-related charges, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options for your defense.