Under Virginia DUI laws, tough penalties are issued to drivers arrested and convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. State agencies, including the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and state courts, generally administer DUI penalties depending on the offender’s age, the number of alcohol-related offenses within a specific period of time, the level of blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of testing and more.

A first time DWI arrest in Virginia usually results in less severe penalties than arrests of repeat offenders. While administrative consequences for DUIs typically include automatic suspensions of the offender’s privilege to drive, a court-imposed conviction will lead to more serious punishments, such as jail sentences, fines and negative points on his or her driving report. Learn how to proceed when charged with DUI in VA and why hiring an attorney in such instances is important by reading the sections below.

DUI Citations and Convictions in Virginia

A DWI arrest in Virginia may be followed by the issuance of a traffic ticket, requiring the driver to appear in court and resolve their case as stated on the form. Drivers can be arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and asked to submit to a breath or blood test.

Licensees who fail the test or refuse to take one will incur drunk driving charges and will be subject to administrative and criminal punishments if convicted in court. The criminal penalties that follow after a court conviction usually include mandatory fines, imprisonment sentences and license revocations in addition to other punishments.

Note:  If you have several DWI convictions on your driving record resulting in license suspensions or revocations, your suspension periods will run consecutively.

Virginia Under the Influence Violations and Penalties

Drivers are legally considered in violation of Virginia drunk driving laws if they are caught operating a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher. Severe DUI penalties may also apply for driving with a BAC lower than .08 percent, as driving abilities are usually impaired in such instances.

When getting a DUI in VA for the first time, drivers are generally subject to less serious penalties, which is not the case for offenders with more than one alcohol-related driving violation on their report. State agencies impose separate punishments (administrative and criminal) on DUI offenders to emphasize the dangers of drinking while operating a vehicle.

The sections below outline the penalties that apply to licensees who fail to comply with the applicable rules and regulations.

First DUI Offense

The administrative VA DUI penalty imposed after a driver is charged with driving under the influence due to test failure or refusal for the first time is an automatic 7-day license suspension. Drivers with their first conviction will be required to pay a mandatory fine of at least $250 and will be subject to a 7-year license revocation.

Second DUI Offense

Drivers getting a DUI in Virginia for the second time are punished with an administrative license suspension of 60 days or until the offender goes to trial (whichever comes first). Motorists who are not able to have charges dropped in such instances will incur further court penalties, including a 3-year driver’s license revocation, a minimum fine of $500 and possible imprisonment. Drivers convicted of a second DUI within five years of their first offense will be subject to minimum 20 days in jail.

Third and Subsequent DUI Offenses

A third DUI conviction within a 10-year period will lead to a license revocation of an indefinite amount of time, minimum 90-day prison sentence, as well as a possible permanent forfeiture of the offender’s vehicle.

Convictions for more than two DUI offenses in Virginia within 5 years, as well as for driving with a BAC higher than .15 percent but no more than .20 percent, will result in additional penalties.

Note: Minors with a Virginia underage DUI conviction will also incur tough punishments, including a suspension of their privilege to drive for up to one year and a minimum penalty fine of $500, or at least 50 hours of community service.

Drinking and Driving in Virginia

The severity of the DUI laws in Virginia that regulate the behavior of drivers while on the road is due to fact that combining alcohol with the act of driving a vehicle is highly dangerous and can result in serious injuries and fatalities.

Even a small amount of alcohol can affect a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle in a safe manner, as alcohol impairs judgement, coordination and vision. Therefore, even more serious consequences will follow when a driver is arrested and his or her chemical test shows an illegal amount of alcohol or drugs in the body.

Virginia DUI Attorneys

Due to the complexity of the drunk driving laws, offenders generally need to hire an experienced DUI attorney to better understand their charges. By engaging the services of a good DUI lawyer in VA, drivers are able to prepare a strong defense, thus increasing their chances of reducing their court-imposed penalties to a minimum.

A knowledgeable lawyer can also help licensees complete any applicable documentation, provide them with an explanation of the court proceedings and advise them on the best course of action.

Virginia Open Container Laws

You may also be in violation of the VA DUI laws for possessing an open container of alcohol while operating a vehicle. Under the set rules and regulations, you are prohibited from having open containers of alcoholic beverages in the passenger area or within your reach while operating a vehicle. Severe charges and punishments may follow if you fail to adhere to this state law.

Reinstating a Suspended Drivers License in Virginia

Reinstating a Virginia DUI suspended license is mandatory for drivers who wish to restore their driving privileges in state. Though the steps to initiate a reinstatement procedure may vary on a case-by-case basis, the general requirements are as follows:

  • Complete the mandatory DUI driver’s license suspension period.
  • Submit proof of completion of an alcohol education treatment program.
  • Install an ignition interlock device (IID), if required.
  • Pay the applicable fines.
  • Provide proof of financial responsibility or car insurance.

Note: Contact a local DMV branch in VA to inquire about the exact reinstatement criteria pertaining to your case.

Virginia Alcohol Awareness Classes

Virginia driving under the influence convictions on an offender’s record will also require him or her to enroll in an alcohol-related traffic school program as a condition of reinstatement.

Motorists assigned to DUI classes in Virginia, which are also known as Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) courses, may need to spend at least 20 hours over a period of 10 weeks in this program, thus complying with the criteria.

Participation in an ASAP course is usually necessary for the purposes of monitoring drivers’ compliance with any court-imposed requirements and providing information about the negative influence of alcohol on safe driving.

Virginia FR-44 Insurance

Certain DUI offenses in Virginia will require you to submit a certificate of financial responsibility, also referred to as FR-44 insurance form. Providing proof of insurance after DUI in VA is generally necessary for offenses such as operating while under the influence of intoxicants or drugs.

The minimum FR-44 insurance coverage requirements in these instances are $40,000 for property damage, $50,000 for bodily injury/death of one person and $100,000 for bodily injury or death of more than one person.

Virginia Laws That Pertain to DUI/DWI

Per VA DUI laws, motorists will be subject to severe charges and punishments if they refuse to submit to a chemical test. Drunk driving charges will also apply if they fail to stay in compliance with the state open container law. In addition to this, state agencies impose serious penalties on licensees operating a vehicle with excessive blood alcohol content.

While adult drivers can receive DUI charges for driving with a BAC of at least .08 percent, motorists younger than 21 years of age can be convicted for operating with a BAC as low as .02 percent. Similar charges may also follow for driving under the influence of any drug.  

Hardship License in Virginia

Drivers with a DUI suspended license in Virginia may apply for a restricted credential in certain instances, depending on the circumstances of their suspension or revocation. Motorists convicted of a DUI violation for the first time, for example, are eligible to petition the presiding court for a restricted license at the time of conviction.

Licensees who have committed a DUI in Virginia for the third time, on the other hand, may request restricted driving privileges after 3 years beginning the date of conviction. Note that this license may not be issued unless you provide the documents as stated in your restricted license order.

Last updated on Wednesday, March 4 2020.