Drivers who are drunk or high pose a serious risk to the public’s safety in Virginia. To protect as many people as possible, Virginia lawmakers have devised DUI laws that prohibit the act of operating a motor vehicle while inebriated.
Motorists who plan on taking to the roadways in this state need to be aware of what the legal blood alcohol content limits are. They also can benefit by knowing how DUI is punished in Virginia.
DUI in Virginia
Virginia defines DUI as operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. This is the per se or standard definition that applies to many of the commonwealth’s drivers. It includes all motorists who are 21 years of age and older and who operate motor vehicles that are privately owned like motorcycles, vans, trucks and even recreational vehicles like mopeds and scooters.
The definition does not apply to motorists who drive commercial vehicles or drivers who are under the age of 21. These drivers are held to different and lower BAC standards than other drivers. Commercial drivers must have a BAC that is lower than 0.04 to avoid getting a DUI charge while underage drivers need to stay below 0.02 to avoid this same charge.
The definition of DUI in Virginia also includes being under the influence of any substance that impairs a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. These substances can include alcohol, illegal drugs, inhalants and prescription medications.
The definition also allows for people to be charged with a DUI even if they are not actually driving a vehicle. They need to be in actual physical control of a vehicle, such as sitting in the driver’s seat or having their hands on the steering wheel, to be arrested for DUI if their BACs are 0.08 percent or higher. The vehicle does not have to be in motion for the arrest to take place.
DUI Penalties in Virginia
The penalties for DUI reflect the number of prior DUI convictions on a person’s driving record. They also depend on the offender’s BAC limit at the time of his or her arrest.
A first-time DUI conviction in Virginia leads to penalties of up to five years in jail, a fine of $750 and a license suspension of 90 days. If the DUI resulted in injuries to another person, the person’s license can be suspended for up to one year.
A second DUI offense in Virginia leads to a jail stint of up to two years or a minimum of 60 hours in jail and 200 hours of community service. The fine maxes out to $1500, and the driver can lose his or her license for up to 18 months.
A third DUI conviction in the commonwealth results in a five-year maximum jail term with at least 96 hours being mandatory. The person’s fine goes up to $2500, and he or she can lose his or her license for a lifetime.
Enhanced DUIs in Virginia are those involving a BAC limit that is 0.16 percent or higher. Someone charged with and found guilty of an enhanced DUI faces the same array of legal penalties. However, the person is restricted for the next three years from driving with a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher.
Likewise, a DUI offender who causes injury or death to a third-party during the crime faces up to 15 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The offender can also be charged with additional crimes like vehicular manslaughter or homicide and sentenced to separate penalties from the DUI charge.
Virginia Implied Consent and IID Use
The commonwealth’s implied consent laws require all motorists including those who are licensed from out-of-state to comply with all DUI chemical or breathalyzer testing. In exchange for the privilege of driving in Virginia, motorists gives implied consent that they will be tested for DUI if they are arrested with probable cause.
If they refuse testing, drivers can have their licenses suspended for up to six months. If they fail a breathalyzer or chemical test, they can lose their licenses for up to 90 days. Subsequent refusals and failures can result in loss of one’s license for up to 18 months.
Drivers whose licenses are suspended can ask the state to issue them a restricted license during their suspension period. They must agree to use an ignition interlock device or IID on all of their vehicles during this period. They also must enroll in substance abuse treatment and serve a portion of their suspension period before they can receive their restricted license. Virginia strictly forbids the act of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drivers who are charged with this crime face serious penalties like jail time and civil fines. They can also lose their licenses and be compelled to use an IID on all of their vehicles.