What are the penalties for DUI convictions in the state of Virginia?

Held as a serious offense, drivers face a range of serious penalties with the potential for lasting implications if convicted of DUI in Virginia.

Every day, numerous drivers across the Commonwealth are stopped by law enforcement on suspicion of drunk driving. In fact, the Virginia State Police report there were 20,927 driving under the influence arrests in 2017 alone. Although driving under the influence is normally a misdemeanor under Virginia law, it is still considered a very serious offense and motorists face a wide range of penalties if they are convicted of DUI. Due to the potential immediate repercussions, as well as the lasting implications of their arrests, it is important for people to understand the possible consequences of drunk driving convictions.

Fines

Fines are a mandatory sentencing requirement for people who are convicted of DUI in the state of Virginia. The amount of the fine depends on several factors including (i) whether the person has a prior conviction for DUI and (ii) the amount of time that has elapsed since the previous conviction(s). For a first-time offense, people will often be fined the mandatory minimum of $250, however, for a second conviction, the fine increases to a mandatory minimum of $500. Anyone who is convicted of a felony DUI (persons with two or more prior convictions) are generally subject to a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.

Driver's license revocation

The revocation of driving privileges is also mandatory for those convicted of drunk driving in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Like the fines imposed above, the period for which the driver's license is revoked in Virginia is also based on how many prior convictions the individual has in their past. For a first-time offender, the suspension period is one (1) year although individuals can qualify for a restricted permit if they complete certain requirements while on probation. For a second offense, however, the period of suspension is three (3) years and there is often a set period where the individual cannot obtain even a restricted permit. A third or subsequent conviction for driving under the influence will bring an indefinite license suspension and the inability to obtain even a restricted license for a period of 3-5 years.

Ignition interlock device

Under Virginia law, the installation of ignition interlock devices is mandatory for anyone who is convicted of a DUI, regardless of their blood alcohol level or whether they have a prior conviction for DUI. These devices must be installed on any vehicle driven by the person convicted of the DUI and must be periodically calibrated at the individuals own expense. As a condition of being granted restricted driving privileges, the court or the Department of Motor Vehicles will require individuals who are convicted of a first-time DUI offense to have ignition interlocks devices installed on their vehicle for at least the first six months of the time that they possess a restricted license. That time period normally increases as the person's blood alcohol level goes up or if they have prior convictions for DUI.

Jail term

In addition to the other penalties they face, those who have are convicted of drunk driving can be sentenced to a jail term, even for a first offense. While some courts will not impose an "active" jail sentence for a first offense, the law requires courts to impose a jail sentence if the person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) gets too high. In Virginia, individuals face a mandatory minimum five (5) day jail sentence for having a BAC over a .15 and a mandatory minimum ten (10) day sentence for a BAC over .20. If the person has a prior conviction, the length of the jail sentence will depend on the number of prior convictions and the amount of time that has elapsed since that conviction(s). For a second offense, individuals face either 10 or 20 days in jail depending on whether the previous DUI was within 5 years or 10 years. This is normally in addition to any mandatory minimum sentence that must be imposed due to the persons BAC. A third offense DUI is a felony that carries a mandatory minimum of at least 90 days in jail. These mandatory minimum sentences CANNOT BE SUSPENDED BY THE COURTS. This means if they are convicted, the judge has NO DISCRETION, and must put the individual in jail, regardless of their employment or family commitments.

Working with a lawyer

Unfortunately for some, a night of revelry and fun can quickly turn into one of fear, uncertainty and potentially lasting consequences when individuals are arrested on suspicion of drinking and driving. As such, motorists who have been charged with driving under the influence may benefit from obtaining legal counsel and should contact an attorney as soon as possible after being charged with a DUI. An experienced attorney can help them understand their rights, evaluate their case, and aid in defending them against the charges they are facing.