Virginia’s penalties for drunk driving

Virginia residents may be subject to serious penalties for drinking and driving even if their blood alcohol content is below 0.08 percent.

For most people in Virginia, the experience of looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing flashing lights can be a scary one. Whether being stopped for driving over the speed limit or something else, it is understandable to be nervous about being pulled over by a police officer. When questions during a seemingly routine traffic stop focus on a driver's consumption of alcohol, a driver may well be even more concerned.

Understanding how the state penalizes drivers arrested for or convicted of driving while under the influence offenses is important for all Virginia residents.

What is the legal limit for a DUI in Virginia?

Virginia, like all other states, recognizes a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent as the threshold at or above which a driver is considered legally intoxicated. However, in Virginia, a driver may still be deemed to be operating a vehicle while impaired even with a BAC below 0.08 percent.

Will I lose the right to drive if my BAC is at or above 0.08 percent?

Even without being convicted, a driver who positively tests for blood alcohol contents above the legal limit will be subject to temporary suspension of driving privileges. For a first offense, the suspension period will last seven days. This is extended to 60 days for a second offense, although that may be shortened if the date of a trial occurs before the 60 days are over. For a third offense, a person's license will be suspended until a trial begins.

These suspension periods will also apply to any driver who refuses to take a chemical test.

If convicted of a first DUI, a driver's license may be revoked for 12 months. Revocation extends to 36 months for a second DUI and is indefinite for a third DUI.

Will I go to jail if I am convicted of a DUI?

A driver may be required to spend time in jail after even a first DUI conviction in Virginia. The length of jail time depends on the number of any prior convictions, when prior convictions took place and what a driver's blood alcohol content was at the time of arrest.

A person convicted of a first DUI with a BAC of 0.14 percent or lower may not need to spend time in jail. If the BAC is between 0.15 and 0.19 percent, five or more days in jail may be ordered. This may be extended to 10 or more days if the BAC is 0.20 percent or higher.

A second DUI conviction may result in up to 12 months in jail. If the second offense happens within 10 years of the first offense, 10 days of those 12 months will be a required minimum sentence. The minimum sentence jumps to 20 days if the second offense happens within five years of the first.

Is a DUI a misdemeanor or a felony?

A first DUI offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Some drivers may face felony charges for subsequent offenses. A third DUI is charged as a Class 6 felony. Certainly a felony is more serious than a misdemeanor but both are criminal convictions that will remain on a driver's record.

How can I get help after a DUI arrest?

It is important that a driver reaches out to an attorney after being arrested for drunk driving. This is the best way for people to get the facts about the laws and potential penalties for a DUI in Virginia.