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Drinking and driving is a serious offense in Virginia. If you are caught driving under the influence (DUI), you could face severe penalties, including jail time, fines, and a driver's license suspension. In this blog post, we will discuss the penalties and sentences for alcohol offenses in Virginia. We will also provide information on how to deal with DUI charges.

Alcohol-related charges in Virginia are considered severe felonies or misdemeanors. Virginia's strict criminal justice system is well known in the US, and this applies especially to the state's rules against driving while intoxicated. In Virginia, certain alcohol-related offenses are only punishable by a fine, while others may result in a jail sentence of several years.

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Virginia DUI Penalties

Virginia Code 18.2-266 divides the various forms of impaired driving/DUI legislation into three major categories:

  • Driving while intoxicated (DWI)

  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI conviction)

  • Driving while under the influence of marijuana or other drugs (DUID).

The maximum penalty for each of these acts is the same. However, extra punishment may be imposed on individuals with past convictions or whose blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds particular limits. 

Besides these three general distinctions of drunken driving offenses, there are still several different specific alcohol-related crimes in Virginia. Prominent examples of these are:

  • public drunkenness

  • consuming or carrying alcohol in public

  • crimes involving inebriated people

  • crimes against minors

  • offenses involving interdicted people

  • buying and selling offenses

  • DUI offenses

Different kinds of alcohol-related crimes have different penalties and sentences depending on the degree of the offense. Of course, these acts leading to a DUI arrest will demand a mandatory minimum jail sentence.

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DUI Conviction in Virginia

In Virginia, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is.08 or higher per 210 liters of breath or if a court finds that you were intoxicated. A judge decides ifyou were intoxicated, and a breath test establishes whether your blood alcohol content (BAC) was above the legal limit.

A police officer may request that you submit to a test to determine whether alcohol is present in your system if you are stopped on the suspicion of drunkenness, whether through a blood or breath test.

Remember that you cannot be forced to take a breathalyzer by the police. However, suppose you are found guilty of driving under the influence. In that case, your license will be immediately revoked for a year if it is established that you unreasonably refused to take the blood or breath test requested by the police.

Additionally, you will not be qualified for a limited license if you are charged with a first DUI conviction. You will automatically lose your license for three years and risk being charged with a class 1 misdemeanor if you are stopped again and refuse to take the test a second time. Just keep in mind that you have the right to remain silent; exercise it, and then get in touch with a DUI attorney as soon as you can.

Mandatory Minimum Jail Sentence in Virginia for DUI Offense

The required mandatory minimum sentence of a number of days is stated in every statute containing a mandatory minimum punishment written by the general assembly stated in the Virginia state laws. Every minute of such time will be served by the drunk driving suspect. So, if someone is given a required minimum sentence of five days, they must serve the whole amount of time. Due to the fact that each day a person is in for good behavior adds one day to the end of their sentence, this is different from if they were only serving a conventional five-day term.

For example, for a person that is given a five-day term in a standard jail, they enter on day one, knock off day five, enter on day two, knock off day four, and enter on day three having completed half of their sentence. Naturally, they round up and down for odd numbers, so if it's an odd number, they'll serve 50 percent plus one. This will also be attested as a drunk-driving offense to their permanent criminal record.

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Penalties for a First Offense DUI or DWI

In Virginia, a first-time DWI, DUID, or DUI arrest that leads to a legal charge is considered a class 1 misdemeanor, which is the highest serious classification of a misdemeanor. You might spend up to a year in jail and pay a fine up to $2,500 if you are found guilty of one of these offenses.

Virginia did, however, enact a new law in 2020 that gave first-time DUI offenders the option of keeping their licenses provided they used an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for a full year. Prior to that modification, a first DUI carried a one-year license suspension and, in some circumstances, a restricted license. This new revision for Virginia DUI laws enables arrested Virginia natives to have more respect for the law and understand their responsibility as a driver.

But there are still requirements that must be completed. For instance, the conviction must be for a first offense of driving under the influence, and the blood alcohol content (BAC) must be.15 or under. Additionally, a court order requesting the issuance of a limited license must be filed.

There is a modification to the implied consent provision under the new Virginia DUI statutes. Those who reject a blood or urine chemical test must wait 30 days after being found guilty before asking the court for a limited license.

Additional Penalties for a First-Time DUI Offense

Besides the stated penalties for first-time offenders for laws involving driving under the influence of alcohol, the following are additional reprimands to ensure that offenders will be held accountable:

  • Jail. The court may decide to postpone your sentence of up to 12 months in prison. The obligatory minimum prison term for a BAC of between 0.15 percent and 0.19 percent is five days. If your BAC was 0.20 percent or greater, the period extends to ten days. As stated, you can be fined up to $2,500. This will also automatically be written on the offender's permanent criminal record.

  • VASAP. You'll be put on probation for up to a year and be ordered to complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP).

  • License suspension for drivers. A limited license can be available to you even if your driver's license is suspended for a year.

Penalties for Second-Time DUI Arrest

Since they have already been found guilty of an offense DUI, offenders for the second time will face harsher penalties. After all, they are expected to have learned from their prior offense. The following are the penalties for a second-time drunk driving law offender:

  • At least $2,500 in fines.

  • If your second DUI violation occurs within five years of your first conviction, you must serve at least 20 days in jail; if it occurs within ten years, you must serve at least 10 days.

  • If your blood alcohol content (BAC) was between 0.15 and 0.19 percent and 0.20 percent or more, you were also subject to an additional obligatory 10-day prison term.

  • A three-year driver's license suspension with the option of a restricted license.

  • In the event that you are given a limited license, you are obligated to install an ignition interlock device on your car.

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Penalties for Third and Fourth DUI offenses

If this is your third or fourth DUI offense, you may be prosecuted with a Class 6 felony. The fines might consist of the following:

  • For a third crime, the maximum prison term is five years, and for a fourth, it is ten years, with potential obligatory minimum penalties.

  • $2,500 maximum fine for both crimes, minimum is $1,000.

  • Perrmanent license suspension, with the option to reapply for a limited license after three years and a full license after five.

Even if you think you are guilty of DUI or DWI, you could still be able to successfully fight the charges and get them dropped or downgraded.

Additionally, a third offense of intoxicated driving is also prosecuted as a crime, not a misdemeanor. A mandatory minimum term of 90 days and a maximum sentence of 5 years in jail await you if you are found guilty of driving while intoxicated three times within ten years. If you are found guilty of driving while intoxicated a third time within five years, you will automatically get a minimum jail sentence of six months and a maximum of five years.

A DUI conviction will remain on a driver's record with the DMV for 11 years. The offense carries six points. Although it may not seem like much, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may impose penalties, such as the suspension of your driver's license, if you accumulate a specific number of points in a year.

Conclusion

Drunk driving is undeniably a severe offense in Virginia. This act may result in uncountable casualties, even death. Allow this article to be your guide so that you know all the possible consequences of driving under the influence and stay safe in driving.