Virginia DUI Laws

Virginia DUI Basics

The legal limit for blood alcohol content in the United States is 0.08 percent. In Virginia this limit is decreased to 0.04 percent for all those who drive commercial vehicles. All those under the age of twenty-one are considered minors in regard to alcohol consumption and will subsequently be arrested if they have blood alcohol content levels above 0.02 percent.

Driving under the influence offenses can be prosecuted in one of two ways. The first is through impairment where the prosecution will attempt to prove to the court that the individual was impaired while driving. Impairment can include alcohol, drugs, or drugs and alcohol together. Evidence will be brought before the court and can include driving patterns, physical appearance, blood alcohol content levels, and field sobriety tests. The second is through per se law where the prosecution will attempt to prove that an individual had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit.

What are the Penalties for a Virginia DUI?

If you are found guilty of a DUI in the state of Virginia you will be subject to harsh penalties with increasing severity based on your blood alcohol level.  In addition to fines, jail time, and license suspension, you may face additional penalties, including mandatory alcohol education programs, the installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, increased insurance costs, and the potential loss of your employment.

1st Offense DUI Penalties

A first-offense DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. This is the most serious of all the misdemeanor categories. If this is your first offense, the maximum punishment is the loss of your driver’s license for a year, up to $2,500 in fines, and up to one year in jail. You will also be ordered to attend mandatory alcohol education classes through the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program.

If your BAC is extremely high, you will face additional penalties. If your BAC was between .15 and .20 percent, there is a mandatory five-day jail sentence. If your BAC was over .20 percent, you will face a mandatory ten-day jail sentence. These mandatory jail times for elevated BACs double for DUI 2nd convictions. All drivers who have a BAC of .15 percent or higher will be ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle; this device measures your BAC before the car can start.

  • Class 1 Misdemeanor requiring a maximum of 12 months of jail time
  • $250 minimum fine
  • 12-month license suspension
  • Immediate license restriction for 7 days

1st Offense With BAC at .15 – .20:

  • 5 days mandatory minimum jail time
  • $250 minimum fine
  • 12-month license suspension with Ignition Interlock installed on your vehicle
    Immediate license restriction for 7 days

1st Offense With BAC at .21+

  • 10 days mandatory minimum jail time
  • $250 minimum fine
  • 12-month license suspension and Ignition Interlock installed on your vehicle
    Immediate license restriction for 7 days

2nd Offense within 5 years:

  • Class 1 Misdemeanor with 12 months maximum jail sentence and 20 days mandatory minimum jail time
  • $500 minimum fine
  • 3-year license suspension with Ignition Interlock installed on your vehicle
  • No restricted license for 1st year
  • Immediate license restriction for 60 days

2nd Offense within 10 years:

  • Class 1 Misdemeanor with 12 months maximum jail sentence 10 days mandatory minimum jail time
  • $500 minimum fine
  • 3-year license suspension with Ignition Interlock installed on your vehicle
  • No restricted license for 4 months
  • Immediate license restriction for 60 days

2nd Offense and BAC at .15 – .20:

  • All the penalties of 2nd offense, plus 10 additional days of jail time

2nd Offense and BAC at .21 or above:

  • All the penalties of 2nd offense, plus 20 additional days of jail time

3rd Offense within 5 years:

  • Class 6 Felony; 6 months mandatory minimum jail time
  • $1000 minimum fine
  • License suspended, max petition for reinstatement after 3/5 years
  • No restricted license

3rd Offense within 10 years:

  • Class 6 Felony; 90-day mandatory minimum jail time
  • $1000 minimum fine
  • License suspended, max petition for reinstatement after 3/5 years
  • No restricted license

4th Offense

  • 1 year mandatory jail time with a maximum of 3 years probation
  • $1000 minimum fine
  • License suspended
  • No restricted license

Virginia Implied Consent

Any person, whether licensed by Virginia or not, who operates a motor vehicle upon a highway, as defined in § 46.2-100, in the Commonwealth shall be deemed thereby, as a condition of such operation, to have consented to have samples of his blood, breath, or both.

Whether you realize it or not, by driving on a highway in Virginia you “consented” to a blood or breath test. Of course, you never really consented; “implied consent” is just another tool that Virginia uses to make conviction easier.

What if you refuse?

The penalty for the first refusal is potentially worse than the penalties for the first DUI. A restricted license is usually granted for a first DUI but no restricted license is allowed for a conviction for refusal. In court jargon, with a refusal “you walk for 12” months.

Additional DUI Penalties

Drivers’ License Suspension after conviction

Any driver convicted of DUI or refusing to submit to BAC testing, are subject to mandatory suspension of a driver’s license. Virginia imposes harsher penalties for second or third DUI offenses. In Virginia, a driver’s license will be suspended for one year for the first DUI offense, and three years for the second or third offense. A restricted license may be granted by the judge immediately for a first DUI.

Alcohol Education Programs

When convicted of a DUI offense, the state of Virginia requires that all offenders complete a mandatory Alcohol Safety Action Program as well as an assessment for potential alcohol dependency.

Ignition Interlock

Except for a DUI 1st with a BAC under .15, you will be required to get an ignition interlock. The device measures your breath alcohol level before and as you are driving. If more than 0.02 BAC is detected, the ignition interlock will prevent the operation of the vehicle.  In most cases, the state will require the DUI offender to pay all costs including the installation, rental, and maintenance.

DUI with a minor in the car

In addition, any person convicted of a DUI violation with a person 17 years of age or younger in the vehicle will be fined an additional $500 – $1,000 and sentenced to a mandatory minimum of five days in jail in addition to any other jail time.

Virginia Administrative License Suspension

Unless you live in a big city, public transportation probably isn’t very convenient. Imagine having to wake up early and walking a mile to the bus stop just to make it to work. That wouldn’t be pleasant even in the best of conditions. If you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), this situation could happen to you.

You may have heard about the penalties you face if convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). They include time in jail, hefty fines, and mandatory alcohol education classes. What you might not know is that your license will be suspended automatically when you are arrested for driving while intoxicated.

This is known as an Administrative License Suspension. When you are arrested for suspicion of DUI, you will automatically lose your license for seven days. If this is your second time being arrested for DUI, your license will be suspended for 60 days or until your case goes to trial (whichever day comes first).

If you are convicted of DUI, you will face a license suspension in addition to this administrative license suspension.

Ignition Interlock Device

The ignition interlock program requires that a device be installed on the vehicles of persons convicted of DUI upon eligibility of reinstatement for a permanent or restricted driver’s license. The device is also required if an individual applies for a restricted license for work after a DUI conviction.

What are the costs? A person convicted of DUI and falling under this program will have to pay for:

  • Installation
  • Refundable deposit
  • Monthly monitoring/installation

If the court determines that an individual convicted of DUI is incapable of paying for the ignition interlock device, the court may order that part of the penalty fine paid by that individual be applied to the cost of the device.

Device Specifications:

  • Incapacitates vehicle ignition with a BAC of .05 or higher
  • Capable of random retesting when the vehicle is in operation
  • Data accessible through Web-base reporting 24 x 7
  • Totally funded by a person convicted of DUI

DUI Conviction

The state of Virginia has a washout period of ten years. A washout period states that after ten years, or five in some states, a prior offense cannot be used to aggravate a current offense.

A new offense will be treated like a first offense under this law. Punishments for driving under the influence are based on these prior offenses. The more offenses an individual has on his or her record, the harsher his or her punishments will become. Aggravating circumstances can also increase a sentence. These can include harming another, driving over the speed limit, driving with a minor in the motor vehicle, and driving with a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit.

Virginia Misdemeanor DUI

In Virginia, first and second driving under the influence offenses are considered misdemeanor offenses. Their penalties may vary depending on any aggravating factors. A first offense can earn a fine of no less than two hundred fifty dollars, driver’s license suspension, and incarceration.

Incarceration sentences vary in Virginia and are based on blood alcohol content. If a minor under seventeen was in the motor vehicle or the individual had a blood alcohol content above 0.15 percent but lower than 0.20 percent, then he or she will have at least a five-day sentence in jail. If an individual has a blood alcohol content above 0.20 percent then he or she will have a jail sentence of no less than ten days.

A second driving under the influence offense can earn at least a $500  fine, up to one year in jail, three years of driver’s license suspension, and an ignition interlock device. If a minor under the age of seventeen was in the motor vehicle, the offender would also earn community service.

Felony DUI in Virginia

A third or subsequent offense is considered a felony in Virginia. Penalties for drunken driving felonies include no less than one thousand dollar fine, at least ninety days in jail, driver’s license suspension, motor vehicle forfeiting, and ignition interlock devices. A jail sentence can increase to a minimum of six months if a third offense was committed within five years of a prior offense.