Driving under influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI) is an offense committed when a driver operates a vehicle after the consumption of alcohol or drugs or other intoxicants. Increased alcohol levels in the driver's blood lead to diminished mental and motor reactions which, in turn, reduce the driver's ability to control the vehicle. This significantly increases the risk of the driver committing errors of judgment and often results in accidents causing severe injuries and even death.
In Virginia, as in the rest of the US, drunk driving is the single largest cause of motor vehicle related fatalities and accounts for an alarmingly high 40% to 50% of the total number of motor vehicle related deaths every year.
In Virginia, the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit is set at 0.08% .Having a Virginia license automatically provides your consent to be tested if stopped by a law enforcement officer, while driving. This is the law of "implied consent" and can be used by the officer to test you if you are stopped on the suspicion of drunk driving, either through a breathalyser test or by an actual blood test to check the BAC. Refusing to take the chemical test will result in your license being revoked for a year.
Points will be added to your driving record and your license will be suspended or revoked, if you convicted of DUI/DWI. The number of points assessed, depend on the severity of the offense and the number of times you have been convicted for it.
ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR DRIVERS OVER 21:
If you are over 21 years old, and are caught with BAC higher than the set limit of 0.08%, you may be subjected to criminal actions in addition to administrative actions. If the DUI/DWI incident you are involved in is subjected to criminal action, it is recommended that you get in touch with a DUI/DWI lawyer as they are experts at handling such incidents and can offer you the best advice.
- The first offense carries a minimum $250 fine and a license revocation for a year. However, the court has the authority to grant you Restricted Driving Privileges. If your BAC is over 0.20%, you will also be jailed for a minimum of 10 days.
- The second offense carries a minimum fine of $500, a license revocation of three years and a jail term of up to a year (with a minimum of 20 days if the second offense is within five years of the first and 10 days if it is within 10 years). The convicting court may grant you Restricted Driving Privileges after a year if your conviction is within five years and after four months if it is five to ten years after the first conviction.
- The third offense or three offenses in ten years is treated as a Class 6 Felony and will result in imprisonment for at least six months if the offense is within five years of the previous one and three months if it is five to ten years after the last such conviction. You are not eligible for bail if you already have two or more offenses. There is also a minimum fine of $1000 and forfeiture of the vehicle if you are its sole owner. You are also liable to lose your driving privileges indefinitely.
- The fourth or subsequent offense carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence of one year in addition to other penalties
- If you have one or more children below 17 in your vehicle and drive while intoxicated, you will, in addition to the above penalties have to spend at least five days in jail and pay a $500-1000 fine. A second offense will also entail 80 hours of community service apart from the above penalties.
ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR DRIVERS UNDER 21
In Virginia, the minimum age for legal consumption of alcohol is 21 years persons below that age caught obtaining, possessing, consuming or under the influence face fines of up to $2500 and prison terms of up to a year in addition to suspension of driving privileges for six months to a year even if you were not driving at the time. Those who supply alcohol to minors face similar punishment. In addition if you happened to be driving, you will also be liable for the DUI penalties applicable to drivers above 21.
ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR COMMERCIAL VEHICLE DRIVERS
If you drive a commercial vehicle and hold a commercial driver license (CDL), DUI is classified as a serious offense which will result in disqualification for one year if you have a BAC of 0.04 or higher or are under the influence of drugs while driving.
- Points will be added to your driving record and you will be barred from driving a commercial vehicle for a year, if you are convicted for your BAC being higher than 0.04%. You will also be issued an "out-of-service" order valid for 24 hours by the arresting officer.
- You will be barred from driving a commercial vehicle for at least three years, if you are convicted for your BAC being higher than 0.04% while transporting hazardous materials.
- You will be barred from driving a commercial vehicle for life if you are convicted for any of these offenses for the second time.
- Even if you committed the offense in a non-commercial vehicle and have been granted restricted driving privileges, by the court you remain disqualified as far as your CDL is concerned till the period of suspension is over and the other conditions are met.
- Apart from these actions, penalties mentioned above for drivers over 21, may also apply to commercial drivers for their first and second offenses of DUI/DWI. The other penalties do not apply since they are barred after the second offense.
ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI:
Virginia laws have administrative implications in addition to the criminal laws against DUI/DWI. If you refuse a breathalyser test or are caught for a first time offense with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, your license gets automatically suspended for a week. The second time, the suspension is for 60 days or till you are tried, whichever happens earlier. The third or subsequent time, the automatic suspension lasts till the trial.
In case of conviction, the suspension becomes a revocation for the periods stated in the earlier section.
LICENSE REINSTATEMENT AFTER DUI/DWI SUSPENSION/REVOCATION:
If you are convicted of DUI/DWI, it will result in your license being suspended or revoked. This means that your driving privileges will be taken away and you will need to apply for a reinstatement of your license, once the period of suspension or revocation is over. Reinstating a license after a suspension of a year, or revocation will also mean taking the driving tests all over again. These will include the vision test, knowledge test and the road test. For this you will have to go in person to the DMV taking with you your proof of identification and residence as well as a court order granting you Restricted Driving Privileges. In addition, there may be one or more requirements stipulated by the court depending on the nature of the offense for which the license was suspended or revoked. If you do not complete the reinstatement requirements, the license will remain suspended or revoked.
- To complete the reinstatement requirements, you must prove that you have successfully completed the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) followed by an interview, pay the reinstatement fee of $40-$220, as well as court costs, fines and licensing fees if applicable. You also have to maintain proof of financial responsibility for two years from the date of suspension/revocation by filing SR-22, if needed.
- If you are being convicted for a third or subsequent time, second time within three years or even the first time if your BAC was 0.15 or higher, it is mandatory for the court to order an ignition interlock device to be placed for breathalyser tests on any vehicle you drive.
- You can pay the fees and complete reinstatement procedures at a DMV Customer Service Center.
- DUI/DWI has been a major cause of death and injury in our nation and it is our duty to prevent such needless pain and suffering. Simply: If you drink, DON'T DRIVE! If we all follow this rule to the letter - thousands of lives will be saved each year.
- If you have been charged with a DUI/DWI get help from a DUI/DWI Lawyer.
- See also Suspended License, Point System and Traffic Ticket Lawyers.