Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are serious criminal offenses in Virginia that carry harsh penalties if you are convicted. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended, and you might face the long-term consequences of having a permanent criminal record.
If you were arrested for a DUI or DWI, you should not just plead guilty and accept your punishment. You could have strong defenses that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense—even if you know you are guilty.
Understanding a DUI and DWI in Virginia
DUI and DWI are used interchangeably and are basically the same offense with identical punishments in the commonwealth. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-266, a person can be charged with a DUI or DWI for the following:
- Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher
- Driving under the influence of alcohol—even if the BAC is less than 0.08 percent
- Driving when under the influence of a narcotic drug or self-administered drug or intoxicant that impairs the ability to drive safely
- Driving while under the influence of a combination of alcohol and drugs or drugs that impair the ability to drive safely
- Driving with a blood content of 0.02 milligrams of cocaine, 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamine, 0.01 milligrams of phencyclidine, or 0.1 milligrams of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine per liter of blood
Drivers under 21 years old can be charged with a DUI or DWI if they have a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher. Commercial drivers can be charged with these offenses if their BAC is 0.04 percent or higher.
Punishments for a First Offense DUI or DWI
A first offense DWI or DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, you may have a permanent criminal record that could affect your ability to find a job, housing, and security clearance. In addition, you could face these punishments:
- Jail. You could be sentenced to up to one year in jail, but the judge has the discretion to suspend your jail sentence. There is a mandatory minimum sentence of five days in jail if your BAC was between 0.15 and 0.19 and 10 days if your BAC was 0.20 percent or higher.
- Fine. You could be ordered to pay a fine of between $250 and $2,500.
- VASAP. You could be required to complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP).
- Probation. You could be placed on probation and have conditions set by the judge that you must follow such as not consuming any alcohol or drugs, completing the VASAP, and meeting with a probation officer.
- Driver’s license suspension. Your driver’s license would be suspended for one year. However, you may be able to request a restricted license to drive to your job and other limited locations. You would need to install an interlock ignition device in order to get a restricted license.
Punishments for a Second DUI or DWI Conviction
You would also be convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor for a second DUI or DWI offense. However, you could be sentenced as follows:
- Minimum fine of $500
- Mandatory jail sentence of 20 days if your conviction is within five years of your first conviction and 10 days if the second conviction is within 10 years of the first one
- Additional 10 day mandatory jail sentence if your BAC was between 0.15 and 0.19 and 20 days if your BAC was 0.20 or higher
- Driver’s license suspension for three years with the possibility of obtaining a restricted license depending on your situation
- Installation of an interlock ignition device for a minimum of six months if you are granted a restricted license
Punishments for a Third or Subsequent DUI or DWI
If you are convicted of a third or subsequent DUI or DWI, the offense would be a Class 6 felony. The potential penalties include:
- Prison. You could be sentenced to up to five years in jail for a third offense and 10 years for a fourth or subsequent conviction. If your conviction is within five or 10 years of your last conviction, you may face a mandatory minimum sentence.
- Fines. You could be fined between $1,000 and $2,500.
- Driver’s license suspension. Your driver’s license would be suspended indefinitely. However, you may be able to request a restricted license after three years and to have your driving privileges fully restored after five years.
Contact Us Today If You Have Been Arrested for a DUI or DWI
Have you been charged with a DUI or DWI in Chesterfield County? You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend you if you want to achieve the best possible outcome given your circumstances. To find out how I can help you, call my Midlothian office, or start a live chat to schedule your free consultation today.