DUI & DWI in Virginia

Did you know that in 2011 alone, there were more than 200 alcohol-related fatal crashes in Virginia? That means there were over 200 drunk driving accidents that caused people to die. Those people were parents, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, and children.

It's no surprise that VA cracks down on drunk driving as hard as the rest of the country.

What is a Virginia DUI?

Virginia refers to drunk driving as driving under the influence, or DUI. Like all states, VA measures DUI by your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and those BAC percentages are based on age and license type.

If an officer pulls you over and your BAC is the following percentage or higher, he will arrest you for DUI:

  • 21 years old or older: 0.08%.
  • Younger than 21 years old: 0.02%.
  • Commercial Drivers (CDL) :0.04%.

Additional Virginia Drug and Alcohol Crimes

If you think alcohol-related crimes are only DUI charges, think again. Virginia has a slew of alcohol- and drug-related crimes that can cost you money, freedom, and your license.

Such drug and alcohol crimes include:

  • Having an open container in the passenger area of a vehicle.
  • Buying alcohol for an underage person.
  • Possessing alcohol on school property.
  • Misrepresenting your age.

Refer to the state's online pamphlet Virginia is Tough for a complete run down of each of these crimes' penalties.

Virginia DUI Penalties: Younger than 21

If you're younger than 21 years old and purchase, possess, or consume alcohol (to the point of a 0.02% BAC), you face the following consequences:

  • License suspension for up to 1 year from your conviction date.
  • Minimum $500 fine, or minimum 50 hours of community service.
  • Possible Alcohol Safety Action Program.
  • Possible restricted driver's license

Virginia DUI Penalties: 21 and Older

Virginia DUI penalties for drivers 21 years old or older vary depending on the offense number, the time period, and higher BACs.

Offense Numbers

First Offense

  • Administrative license suspension for 7 days.
  • Minimum $250 fine; maximum $300 fine. (These fines may be directly related to eligibility for the Alcohol Safety Action Program.)
  • License revocation for 1 year.
  • Any court-ordered restitution.
  • Possible Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP).
  • Possible ignition interlock device.
  • Possible restricted driver's license.
  • Criminal record.

Second Offense

  • Administrative license suspension for 60 days.
  • Minimum $500 fine.
  • Indefinite license revocation.
  • If within fewer than 5 years of the first offense, a mandatory 1 month to 1 year in jail.
  • If within 5 years to 10 years of the first offense, a mandatory minimum 10 days in jail.
  • Any court-ordered restitution.
  • Possible ignition interlock device.
  • Possible restricted driver's license.
  • Criminal record.

Third Offense

  • Administrative license suspension until your trial.
  • If within 5 years, 6 months in jail.
  • If within 10 years, 90 days in jail.
  • Indefinite license revocation.
  • Minimum $1,000 fine.
  • Any court-ordered restitution.
  • Possible Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP).
  • Possible ignition interlock device.
  • Possible restricted driver's license.
  • Felony charge, which means your vehicle is subject to seizure and forfeiture.

Fourth Offense

  • Administrative license suspension until your trial.
  • $1,000 fine.
  • Any court-ordered restitution.
  • License revocation for an indefinite time period.
  • Minimum of 1 year in jail.
  • Possible Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP).
  • Possible ignition interlock device.
  • Possible restricted driver's license.
  • Felony charge, which means your vehicle is subject to seizure and forfeiture.

Extremely High BAC

These penalties are in addition to the penalties outlined above.

BAC of At Least 0.15%

  • First offense: Additional 5 days in jail.
  • Second offense: Additional 10 days in jail (if within 10 years of the first offense).

BAC Higher than 0.20%

  • First offense: 10 days in jail.
  • Second offense: 20 days in jail (if within 10 years of the first offense) and a $500 fine.

Transporting Children While Under the Influence

If you're charged with a Virginia DUI offense and have a minor (someone 17 years old or younger) in the vehicle, not only are you responsible for all the regular DUI penalties, but you're also subject to:

  • An extra 5 days in jail.
  • Additional fines between $500 and $1,000.

Involuntary Manslaughter

If you kill another person while driving under the influence, the court will convict you of involuntary manslaughter or aggravated involuntary manslaughter, depending on the circumstances.

These convictions carry:

  • Up to 20 years in prison.
  • License revocation for an indefinite time period.
  • A felony charge, which means your vehicle is subject to seizure and forfeiture.

Virginia Commercial Drivers and DUI

You face DUI penalties if you:

  • Operate a commercial vehicle in Virginia with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
  • Test positive for driving under the influence of drugs.
  • Refuse a blood test.

Such penalties include:

  • Up to a $2,500 fine.
  • Up to 1 year in jail.

Your CDL disqualification won't necessarily affect your regular driver's license.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) handles all regulations and penalties associated with commercial vehicle drivers throughout the country.

Visit the FMCSA's Disqualification of Drivers for specific information.

Other DUI Penalties

Administrative License Suspension

Virginia is one of many states which have civil penalties for failing or refusing a chemical test. This penalty, known as Administrative License Suspension, means that if you refuse or fail a chemical test your driver's license will be automatically suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles. How long your license is suspended depends on the number of prior offenses.
  • 1st offense: 7 days.
  • 2nd offense: 60 days or until you go to trial.
  • 3rd offense: Until you go to trial.

A DUI conviction will add driver's suspension time on top of the Administrative License Suspension. Additionally, if the court does not make an Ignition Interlock Device a requirement when you are permitted to drive, the DMV will. This is true of even a 1st offense DUI.

Breath Test Refusal Penalties

It does not pay to refuse a breath test.

A first offense brings license suspension for 1 year (in addition to any other suspension periods)―and that's assuming you don't have any previous DUI convictions.

If this is a:

  • Second offense, your license is suspended for 3 years and you get a Class 2 misdemeanor.
  • Third or subsequent offense, your license is suspended for 3 years and you get a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Alcohol Safety Action Program

Everyone who gets a DUI conviction must report to an Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP). ASAP is VA's DUI program, and during the initial visit drivers receive a screening and probationary oversight for license reinstatement.

During this period, the ASAP professionals will determine which, if any, education, intervention, and treatment programs are necessary.

If ASAP assigns you to an education program, the number and duration of classes will depend on the program; you will, however, pay out of your own pocket.

Visit the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program online to learn more about your specific requirements and how to locate the nearest ASAP office.

Ignition Interlock Device

The courts and VA DMV require everyone with a DUI conviction to have an ignition interlock device (IID) as part of their restricted driving privileges (see below) and journey toward restoring full driving privileges.

Here's what you need to know about IID requirements:

  • The court requires an IID on your primary vehicle for a first-offense DUI.
  • The court requires an IID on every vehicle you own, co-own, or operate if you have a second, third, or subsequent DUI conviction.

You'll most likely keep the IID for a minimum of 6 months (during which you can have no alcohol-related incidents), and you're in charge of paying the $20 fee.

Also, IIDs come along with an ASAP, so you must complete the ASAP Pre-Enrollment and Ignition Interlock Pre-Qualification Form.

Please refer to the state's Virginia is Tough pamphlet for more details on IIDs and violation penalties.

FR-44: Car Insurance and Proof of Financial Responsibility

Virginia requires drivers with DUI convictions to file an FR-44 Financial Responsibility Certification; as such, you'll have to carry coverage much higher than the usual policy requirements.

Once you're able to carry regular car insurance again, you might have some trouble finding affordable rates. Lots of auto coverage carriers hike up costs for people with DUIs on their driving records, or steer clear of them altogether.

Once it's time to renew your policy, consider comparing rates from several different carriers to make sure you get the best coverage at the best price possible.

When to Hire a DUI Attorney

DUI arrests lead to court appearances, and appearing in court on a DUI charge without legal representation isn't a smart move.

At the least, you're looking at fines and restitution, a license suspension, and a DUI school; at the most, a jail sentence and even the loss of your vehicle.

For your own protection, start the search for a Virginia DUI lawyer as soon after your arrest as possible, and consider these tips:

  • Search within Virginia-based DUI attorneys. You want someone familiar with the state's laws.
  • Look for lawyers who specialize in VA DUI laws and already have experience representing defendants charged with DUI.
  • Ask the DUI lawyers you're considering for general information about their past cases. Find out how they think your case compares to others.

How to Apply for a Restricted License in Virginia

Generally, you don't apply for a restricted license, per se. Rather, your judge will grant you restricted driving privileges at the time of conviction.

Your judge can do this for most DUI convictions, regardless of offense number or time period; however, there are no restricted driving privileges for commercial drivers.

Making sure you're granted restricted driving privileges is just another reason to hire a DUI attorney.

How to Reinstate Your VA Driver's License

Reinstating your Virginia driver's license is no easy feat, but it's pretty straightforward.

You'll need to provide the court or DMV proof that you've:

  • Paid your fines and restitution fees.
  • Filed your financial responsibility information.
  • Paid any applicable jail fees.
  • Undergone an ASAP interview.
  • Enrolled in and completed any applicable ASAP courses.
  • Paid all applicable reinstatement fees.

You may also need to apply for your driver's license again, meaning you'll have to take the written, driving, and perhaps vision tests over.

Although you can pay some fees online, you must visit the DMV to reinstate your license. Be prepared to:

  • Pass the written and road tests, if applicable.
  • Show proof of identification and residency.
  • Show the court order stating you can have restricted driving privileges.
  • Pay fees to reinstate your license based on reason it was suspended or revoked.

For more license reinstatement information specific to your case, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles.

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