You might need a drunk driving lawyer in Harrisonburg, VA because driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) is considered a criminal offense in Virginia.
Drivers need to understand being charged with a DUI or DWI does not automatically mean a confirmed conviction.
Some of the possible consequences of a DUI or DWI conviction can include driving license suspension, jail time, and losing your job.
In this article, we will talk about everything you need to know about DUI arrests, charges, sentences, and penalties in Virginia
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The Basic Facts About DUI & DWI Laws In Virginia
Virginia’s DUI and DWI laws can be outlined by the following key points:
- Both alcohol and drugs are covered in Virginia’s DUI laws
- It is illegal, in Virginia, to refuse to take a breathalyzer test following an arrest.
- Virginia maintains a “zero tolerance” law to convict minors that drive under the influence of alcohol
- Your license will be suspended or revoked if you are convicted of a DUI or DWI charge
- In certain cases, drivers can be charged with a DUI even with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of less than 0.08%, which is the legal limit
Let’s look at the Virginia law regarding DUI & DWI to grasp a clear understanding of the consequences of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence.
Code Of Virginia § 18.2-266: Driving Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated
Virginia’s DUI laws are based on the Code of Virginia § 18.2-266. It is illegal for a driver to operate a vehicle, train, or engine if any of the following conditions are met.
- The driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or more. The driver has more than 0.08grams or more for every 210 liters of breath according to the results of the breathalyzer test.
- The driver is under the influence of alcohol to an extent that the effect of alcohol impairs the driver’s ability to drive.
- The driver is under the influence of any drug or combination of drugs, to an extent that the drugs impair the driver’s ability to drive.
- The driver is under the influence of both alcohol and drugs combined to an extent that the drugs and alcohol impair the driver’s ability to drive.
- The driver has a blood concentration of any of the following substances which are equal to or greater than:
- 0.02 milligrams of cocaine per liter of blood
- 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamine (aka “meth”) per liter of blood
- 0.01 milligrams of phencyclidine (aka “PCP”)per liter of blood
- 0.1 milligrams of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (aka “ecstasy”) per liter of blood
Upon close scrutiny of Virginia Code § 18.2-266, it becomes clear that the blood alcohol concentration levels do play a role in a conviction. At the same time, the law can still convict a driver under the influence of either alcohol or drugs at any blood concentration level. This is why drivers are recommended to refrain from driving even when they are under the influence of prescription medication or over-the-counter drugs.
Understanding Legal Limits & Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Levels Implications
According to Virginia Code § 18.2-266, it is obvious that BAC levels do play an important role in the conviction of a charge of driving under the influence. But this does not imply that you cannot be charged with driving under the influence even if you have a BAC below the legal limit. According to points 2, 3, and 4, operating a vehicle with “impaired” judgment is sufficient justification to be charged for driving under the influence. These conditions apply especially when the driver may be under the influence of both alcohol and drugs.
Initially, the legal law authorities will pull over a driver under the suspicion of driving under the influence. The driver can be arrested right away if they have a BAC level of 0.08% or more. According to the Commonwealth Attorney, a driver’s judgment must be impaired by drugs or alcohol to charge a driver that has a BAC level lower than the legal limit. In such cases, dashcam videos, the driver’s testimony, and an exceptionally high blood alcohol content (for example, above 0.05%) can be used to justify the conviction.
Understanding The Implications Of Virginia’s Zero Tolerance Law For Underage Drivers
Virginia’s “zero tolerance” law is there to prevent minors from drinking and driving. This means that the zero-tolerance law does not apply to drivers over the age of 21. The legal alcohol limit for minors in the state of Virginia is 0.02%. But this does not mean that drivers with a BAC level of lower than 0.02% will be automatically exempt from the application of the zero-tolerance law.
According to the zero-tolerance law, a minor with any BAC level can be charged for DUI. Drivers in violation of the zero-tolerance law can expect to face reduced sentences in comparison to adult drivers. The driver might have to participate in community service and or pay a fine in addition to getting their license revoked temporarily.
Legal Methods To Determine Driver Blood Alcohol Concentration Levels:
A driver may be asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests by an officer if the officer suspects that the driver is driving under the influence. Some examples of the most common field sobriety tests are to repeat the ABCs or being asked to walk in a straight line. Drivers in Virginia concede to the implied consent when they drive on Virginia roads. Implied consent means that an officer in the state of Virginia does not require your express consent to conduct a breathalyzer test.
A driver that refuses to cooperate to perform field sobriety tests or refuses the breathalyzer test can be arrested in Virginia based on the implied consent law. Such a driver can expect to have their driving license suspended for 12 months in addition to any other penalties related to the DUI offense.
Driving License Suspension In Coordination With DUI Convictions
A driver can expect to have their license suspended immediately after a DUI conviction in the state of Virginia. The Administrative License Suspension (ALS) is the process of suspending a driver’s license after a DUI offense. The main factor that determines how long a driver’s license will be suspended is the number of offenses committed by a driver. The court system can be the most lenient in the case of a first DUI offense.
Let’s look at some of the possible durations for license suspension based on whether or not this is your first DUI offense.
- First DUI Offense: 12 months possible license suspension
- Second DUI Offense: 3 years possible license suspension
- Third & Subsequent DUI Offenses: Indefinite license revocation
Drivers facing excessive DUI charges can expect their license to be revoked indefinitely. It is the court’s discretion to allow a third-time offender to apply for a temporary license. The driver must maintain the temporary license in good standing for two years before they can apply for a license with full privileges.
Penalties For DUI In Virginia
The number of prior DUI convictions, the driver’s age, and the driver’s BAC level are just some of the factors that can determine the severity of the penalty for a DUI driver. A driver charged with DUI can expect to face time for community service, jail time, fines, and a suspension of their driver’s license. The driver might be required to attend driving safety classes before their driver’s license is returned to them.
Penalties For The First DUI Offense:
The laws in the state of Virginia strictly implements penalties even for first-time DUI offenders. The first time DUI conviction classifies as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Drivers can expect to pay fines up to the amount of $2,500 in addition to possible jail time of up to 12 months. The driver will lose their driving privileges seven days following the DUI arrest.
The following are some of the additional penalties that a driver can expect to face after their first DUI conviction:
- Driver’s license suspension for a maximum of one year (or less in some cases)
- Completing community service
- The necessary completion of Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) classes
- Mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for at least six months for drivers choosing to pursue a restricted driver’s license
Drivers will be required to pay $400 to be able to attend the VASAP classes.
Penalties For The Second DUI Offense
The severity of the penalties for a second DUI offense will be affected by how long it has been since your first DUI offense. Drivers facing a second DUI conviction can expect to receive the following penalties.
- License suspension for three years
- Minimum fine of $500
- Prison sentence anywhere between 30 days up to 12 months
- Mandatory participation in Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) classes
- The mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) after receiving your driver’s license
- Mandatory jail sentence of 20 days if the second DUI is within five years from your first DUI conviction
- Mandatory jail sentence of 10 days if the second DUI is within five to 10 years from the first DUI conviction
With the help of a law firm such as DUI lawyers at Kendall Law Firm, PLLC, DUI drivers can appeal to get reduced penalties. This is because the actual jail time and the jail sentence can vary from case to case.