DUI & DWI in West Virginia
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Driving under the influence of alcohol or any other drug is a serious offense in West Virginia and is treated as such. Why shouldn't it be? When someone drives under the influence, he's not only putting his own life at risk, but he's also endangering the lives of everyone around him―not to mention the lives of the survivors that will be affected when they lose a loved one to a drunk driver.
Even if a drunk driving accident isn't fatal, there may still be personal injuries that the victim and his or her family members will have to overcome. If you or a loved one is involved in a alcohol-related accident, you should contact an attorney specializing in personal injury.
In the past several years, 40% of fatal accidents involving vehicles in West Virginia also involved drivers who had been drinking. Alcohol affects a person's judgment, impairs vision, and reduces alertness.
Just as it affects different people in different ways, it can also affect the same person in different ways at different times. For example, a person's emotional, mental, and physical states, as well as whether or not they've been using medicine, can help determine how alcohol will affect that person.
Aside from paying fines and spending time in jail, being charged with and convicted of a DUI carries the penalty of losing your driving privileges (see below). Being in jail or unable to drive yourself makes it quite difficult to show up to work on time or pick up your kid from football practice.
The Implied Consent Law helps further protect drivers from the hazards of DUI. You're considered to have already given consent to taking a chemical breath test (which determines the amount of alcohol in your body) if you're a licensed driver in West Virginia. If you refuse to take the test, your driving privileges could be suspended or revoked from a period of one year to life.
If you find yourself being pulled over and tested for DUI, the best thing for you to do is contact a DUI attorney immediately.
West Virginia enforces the Zero Tolerance Law. This means that if you are younger than 21 and drive while under the influence of any amount of alcohol, your license will be revoked―possibly until you turn 21. This is a scary thought for some of you who are 16 or 17 and would rather risk driving yourself home from a party at which you drank alcohol than calling Mom and Dad for a ride and getting in trouble because you drank. Scarier is the fact that you could kill yourself or someone else if you don't give them a call.
Below is a brief outline of DUI offenses and penalties for alcohol and other drugs.
- Zero Tolerance (younger than age 21 with any measurable amount of alcohol): You face fines from $25 to $100, and license revocation for 60 days.
- Zero Tolerance Second Offense (younger than age age 21 with any measurable amount of alcohol): You face 24 hours in jail, fines from $100 to $500, and license revocation until your 21st birthday, and mandatory participation in the Interlock Program.
- DUI with Implied Consent, First Offense: You face jail time from 24 hours to six months, fines from $100 to $500, and license revocation for one year.
- DUI―Alcohol or Drugs, First Offense: You face jail time from 24 hours to six months, fines from $100 to $500, and license revocation for six months.
- DUI―Alcohol or Drugs, Second Offense: You face jail time from six months to one year, fines from $1,000 to $3,000, and license revocation for 10 years (or one year followed by mandatory Interlock Program participation).
- DUI―Alcohol or Drugs, Third Offense: You face jail time from one to three years, fines from $3,000 to $5,000, and license revocation for life (or one year followed by mandatory Interlock Program participation).
Note that in West Virginia, you must successfully complete a safety and treatment program at your own expense before you can have your driving privileges reinstated. Also, if your driving privileges are revoked when you are younger than 18, you won't get them back until you turn 18 or until after the statutory period of revocation or suspension, whichever is longer. Then all other requirements must be met, as well. Sort of makes it difficult to pick up your girlfriend for the prom, doesn't it?
The most obvious tip to avoid the consequences of driving under the influence is simple: Don't do it. Here are a few suggestions to help you.
- If you plan to drink while you're out, have a designated driver accompany you.
- Keep the number for several taxi services with you at all times―just in case.
- Tend to get a little rowdy when you drink? Or stubborn? Maybe you turn into Superman. In any case, the best way to avoid driving yourself home after you've convinced yourself that you're invincible is to leave your car keys at home.
- Know your limits. Having a glass of wine at dinner might not send you to jail; having a bottle, however, probably will. Play around with a BAC Calculator to get an idea of what you can legally handle.
You can also find more information about blood alcohol content in the Driver Licensing Handbook.
- Teens: If you drink while you're out―whether you're at a party, a club, a game, or a friend's house―do not drive yourself home. You are already breaking the law. Find a sober friend, or call your parents. Yes, they may ground you for life, but at least you won't risk killing your best friend, first love, or yourself.
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