Driving under the influence of alcohol can bring serious repercussions. The penalties you face will depend on many individual factors, namely the state where you are being charged. Getting charged with a DUI in Virginia can carry a stiff punishment, so it would behoove you to refrain from drinking and driving. Here is an overview of these laws.
Blood Alcohol Limit
Like the rest of the country, driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher can get you slapped with a DUI charge. If you are under 21, a BAC of at least .02 can carry fines and other penalties such as license suspension; if you have a BAC of .08 or higher, you will face similar penalties as anyone else with a BAC of this level. It is important to note, however, that you can still be convicted of a DUI even if your BAC is below .08 if it seems that your driving has been impaired by alcohol consumption.
Submitting to Chemical Testing
In Virginia, you do not have the option to choose a blood test over a breath test—if you refuse the latter, your license will automatically be suspended; if you are eventually convicted of a DUI that comes with a license suspension, these punishments will be administered consecutively, meaning one after the other and not at the same time. License suspensions due to refusal to submit to chemical testing are not eligible for restricted driving privileges.
Your first conviction in Virginia carries a minimum fine of 250 dollars and loss of your license for one year—you will likely also face additional penalties from the Motor Vehicle Department that are completely separate from the criminal conviction. A second conviction can carry a minimum fine of 500 dollars, loss of license for three years and up to one year in jail. A third conviction, depending on when it occurred, can lead to indefinite suspension of your license, felony charges and up to one year in jail; a fourth conviction will land you in jail for at least one year. If your BAC was especially high—between .15 and .20 on your first conviction, you may also face jail time. If someone under 18 was in your car at the time of the arrest, you may also face additional penalties such as increased fines, jail time and community service.
Alcohol Education Treatment Program
If convicted, you will be required to take an alcohol education treatment program—at your own expense. Over 10 weeks, you will spend at least 20 hours in an Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP.) It is also possible you will be ordered into a treatment facility, again at your own expense.
Seeking Legal Counsel if You Get Arrested
If you get arrested for a DUI, it is important to seek out an experienced DUI attorney who tries these types of cases specifically; any old criminal lawyer will not do. You may think that a DUI is not the type of case that you can mount a defense for, but surprisingly, there are many ways to get charges dismissed or penalties greatly reduced. The stakes are high and you need an attorney who is thoroughly familiar with your state’s DUI laws and motor vehicle laws. Ideally, your lawyer will be local to the area where your case will be tried because he will be familiar with the local court, judges, prosecutors and other relevant elements of your case. Use referral services with caution and do not juts go with the lawyer with the most or flashiest advertisements. This is not the type of case you want to fight on your own or just take whatever penalties that may be coming your way.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about various legal topics; if you are facing DUI charges or any other traffic violations, she recommends visiting Chucker & Reibach for more information.