The state of Virginia is very serious when it comes to laws that concern driving under the influence (DUI) and the penalties can be quite severe as a result. The most important reasons for coming down hard on DUI offenses is that the state wants to do everything that it can in order to avoid as many accidents, injuries, and deaths as possible. According to so statistics, 182 people were injured every single day in traffic crashes on Virginia’s roads and highways in 2018; even worse, during that same period, traffic accidents resulted in 819 deaths.
Unfortunately, a lot of these accidents, injuries, and deaths could have been avoided were it not for an intoxicated driver who lost control while behind the wheel. You can clearly see why DUI offenses are so important to the state and why they must be punished accordingly and if you do get charged with a DUI a criminal defense lawyer will be needed. The most advisable thing to do is to avoid alcohol completely if you know that you will be operating any type of motor vehicle such as a car, truck, motorcycle, or others; or to refrain from operating any motor vehicle once you have consumed even a small amount of alcohol.
At this point, it should be noted that driving under the influence is not limited to alcohol use but also includes illegal drugs and even medication. If you are pulled over by a police officer and found to be impaired by any kind of legal medication, you will most likely be charged with a DUI just as if you were impaired by alcohol or illegal drugs. Alcohol is the most common cause of drivers being charged with DUI in Virginia and across the nation. A person who operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level that is .08% or higher is considered to be under the influence under state law and will be charged with a DUI and have to face steep penalties. What exactly are those penalties in the Old Dominion state?
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence in Virginia
Just like most states, Virginia recognizes the importance of deterring drivers from engaging in activities that can harm or even kill them and others, and this includes driving under the influence. There might once have been a time when a drunk driver might simply be allowed to call a family member to drive him or her home and that would be the end of the matter, but those days are long gone! These days, if you do something while driving that leads a police officer to believe that you are impaired in one way or another, he or she will have reasonable suspicion of a DUI and proceed to pull you over. The officer will question you and most likely ask you to perform a field sobriety test to further observe whether you do or say something that can be used as evidence of a DUI.
The officer can then ask you to take a chemical test which is usually a breathalyzer test but can also be a blood sample or urine analysis. If the law enforcement officer believes that he or she has enough evidence of probable cause you will be arrested for driving under the influence. The most important thing to do at this point is to contact an experienced DUI attorney who can advise you about your options.
Keep in mind that being charged with a DUI does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted of it. A good DUI lawyer will know how to defend you against the charges and call into question certain things such as whether the police officer even had reasonable suspicion in order to pull you over, in the first place. If your lawyer can prove that legal procedure was not followed for one reason or another, your charges might be dropped altogether. Of course, you must also keep in mind that you might well be convicted and have to face the penalties so let’s have a look at what those are:
In the state of Virginia, being convicted of driving under the influence for the first time means that the driver in question will have to; pay mandatory fines that include court costs and fees, suffer a driver’s license suspension, and even have to spend time behind bars. The fine that the judge imposes can be up to $2,500 depending on the circumstances. A driver’s license suspension of up to 12 months can be imposed. But the worst part for most people is that they will be facing up to a year in jail, and that can affect a person’s life much more than he or she might realize. Also, a DUI is a class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia and will remain on your record forever.
If you are convicted for driving under the influence within 5 years of a prior offense, you will be facing a minimum $500 fine, jail time of 20 days to 1 year, and a driver’s license suspension of up to three years. For most of us, losing our license for up to three years would be absolutely devastating, especially if getting to work and other important places is next to impossible without being able to drive.
A third DUI that is committed within 5 years of the first offense becomes extremely serious because it is considered a class 6 felony that carries up to 5 years behind bars. At that point, the fines and license suspension are the least of your worries.
One very important factor in a DUI is how high the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is proven to be because the higher it is the more severe the penalties imposed by the judge will be. If you are convicted of your first DUI and your license is suspended, you might qualify for a restricted license. Talking to an experienced DUI attorney is absolutely necessary if you are facing your first DUI and even more so if it is your second DUI or worse.