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How does Virginia approach drunk driving?

Drunk driving laws are strict in Virginia, and you can face serious penalties if you so much as have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle. Here are a few facts about Virginia's drunk driving penalties.

What happens if there's an open container in your vehicle?

If you are stopped by law enforcement and have an open container in your vehicle, you can be charged with drinking while operating a motor vehicle. If the open container is in the passenger area and you show signs of intoxication, you can be accused of drinking and driving, too. Open container laws are designed to prevent people from drinking while they're behind the wheel. Mistakes are made, though, and if you have not been drinking or tests show you are not intoxicated, that's a good defense against the charges.

What happens if you're convicted of drunk driving?

If you are convicted of drinking and driving, the first offense comes with a mandatory fine of at least $250. Additionally, you could lose your license for a year. A second offense results in more severe penalties include a potential jail term for up to a year, a driver's license revocation for up to three years, and a mandatory fine of at least $500.

Three DUIs within a year result in a mandatory license revocation. You will be fined a minimum of $1,000 and may have the case prosecuted as a Class 6 felony. There is a mandatory 90-day jail term if this offense happened within 10 years of a previous DUI and a mandatory six-month jail term (minimum) if it was within the last five.

These penalties may be able to be reduced with a strong defense, which is why you should immediately speak with your attorney upon arrest. You don't have to speak with police until you've had a word with your attorney on what to expect.

Source: Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, "Virginia is Tough on drunk and drugged drivers," accessed Jan. 24, 2017

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