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Virginia DUI Laws

Driving with any level of impairment is dangerous both to you and to those around you. Penalties for a DUI conviction in Virginia are harsh to reduce the number of those who drink and drive.

Drugged and drunk driving laws can be confusing. You may see the terms driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) when researching impaired driving. These phrases are interchangeable in Virginia, as they are not separate crimes.

Virginia increases your penalties depending on your blood alcohol content and the length of time between charges if you have multiple offenses.

Below, you will find an overview of Virginia's DUI laws.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits and Implied Consent
"Per Se" BAC Limit 0.08%
Zero Tolerance (Underage) BAC Limit 0.02%
Enhanced Penalty (Aggravated) BAC Limit 0.15%
Implied Consent to Submit to BAC Test? Yes
Select Penalties
Minimum License Suspension or Revocation (1st, 2nd, 3rd offense) 1 year / 3 years / Indefinite
Mandatory Alcohol Education, Assessment and Treatment Both
Vehicle Confiscation Possible? Yes
Ignition Interlock Device Possible? Yes

Disclaimer: State laws are subject to change through the passage of new legislation, ballot initiatives, rulings in the higher courts, including federal decisions, and by other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state laws you are researching.

Virginia DUI Law

Virginia law prohibits anyone from operating a "motor vehicle, engine, or train" if:

  • Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or more
  • You're under the influence of alcohol
  • You're under the influence of drugs that impair your ability to operate any vehicle safely
  • You're under the influence of a combination of drugs and alcohol
  • Your blood concentration is 0.02 milligrams of cocaine or
  • 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamine or
  • 0.01 milligrams of phencyclidine (PCP) or
  • 0.1 milligrams of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)

Virginia recognizes most motor vehicles that can drive on the state's highways in its definition, including mopeds.

Per Se DUI Offense

per se offense is one that stands on its own. When discussing a per se DUI offense, we refer to a state's legal limit. In Virginia, the legal BAC level is 0.08%. If law enforcement has a blood or breath test proving that your BAC is at or above this limit, you will face a DUI charge. The police officer does not need to prove that you're intoxicated. Evidence from your chemical test is enough; it stands on its own.

Virginia also has per se limits for specific illegal drugs. These include:

  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • PCP
  • MDMA or Ecstasy

Implied Consent and Chemical Tests

When you drive in Virginia, the law says you agree to chemical testing to check for intoxicants after a DUI arrest. These tests include breath and blood tests.

When law enforcement suspects you of driving under the influence, they will ask you to take a preliminary breath test or a Breathalyzer. They may also have you perform a series of field sobriety tests. You can refuse these without facing additional penalties, but refusal won't prevent your arrest.

Once arrested for a DUI, Virginia's implied consent law expects you to cooperate with evidentiary and blood testing to establish your BAC and to look for intoxicating substances. You may refuse these tests, but you will face penalties for refusing.

Penalties for Refusal

Chemical test refusal is a civil offense. If it's your first refusal, your driver's license suspension is for one year.

If you refuse an evidentiary breath test again within 10 years, law enforcement will charge you with a Class 1 misdemeanor. You face one year in jail, a $2,500 fine, and a three-year license suspension.

A second blood test refusal is a civil offense. Your driver's license gets suspended for three years.

DUI Penalties

A DUI arrest carries both a criminal and administrative part. The administrative portion involves your driving privileges. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) manages this area of your sentence in cooperation with the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP).

Your DUI penalties will vary depending on your level of intoxication. Penalties increase the higher your BAC at the time of arrest. Your penalties also increase if you have prior convictions, even if those convictions occurred in another state.

A first DUI, if 21 or older with a BAC under 0.15%, is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties can include:

  • Mandatory minimum fine of $250
  • One-year driver's license suspension
  • Ignition interlock device required with a restricted license
  • Completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP)

For a second offense, penalties may include:

  • Minimum $500 fine
  • Three-year license revocation
  • Ignition interlock device required after your suspension
  • Up to one year in jail is possible
  • A $50 fee to the Trauma Center Fund
  • Completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP)

If your prior conviction was within the last 10 years, you will serve a mandatory 10 days in jail. If your prior DUIs are within the previous five years, you must serve 20 days of jail time.

A third offense is a Class 6 felony. At a minimum, you face:

  • Minimum $1,000 fine
  • Mandatory, indefinite license revocation
  • One to five years possible jail term

If your prior convictions are within the last 10 years, you will serve a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail and forfeit your vehicle's ownership if you are the only owner. If your prior DUIs are within the previous five years, you will spend a minimum of six months in jail, as well as lose your vehicle. A judge may deny you bail and hold you until trial.

A fourth or more DUIs will carry a mandatory one-year term in prison.

Excessive BAC Penalties

A BAC of 0.15% to under 0.2%, penalties include a mandatory minimum five-day jail sentence. If charged with a second DUI within this BAC range, you will serve 10 days in jail. This is in addition to all other fines and penalties a Judge may order.

A BAC of 0.2% or more will increase your sentence to a mandatory minimum 10-day jail sentence. A second will increase your jail time to 20 days at a minimum.

DUI While Transporting a Minor

Transporting a minor is an aggravating factor that will increase your DUI penalties. Your sentence expands if you have a minor aged 17 or younger in your vehicle during your offense. You will serve an additional five days in jail and be assessed an extra fine of $500 to $1,000.

Ignition Interlock Device and Restricted Driving Privileges

During your license suspension period, you may apply for restricted driving privileges. These are typically granted to allow you to attend work, school, or medical appointments. You must install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle.

An ignition interlock device is a small breath test that connects to your vehicle's ignition system. You must provide a breath sample before you can start your car. If the IID detects any amount of alcohol in your system, your vehicle won't start. The IID will prompt you to provide extra samples during your trip to ensure you remain sober. If you don't give a sample in time, or your sample has a detectable amount of alcohol, your car's lights and horns will sound.

Generally, for a first-time or second offense, you must maintain the IID for the rest of your license suspension or at least six months. Any violations of the IID will extend your period. You must have six months without a violation before the DMV will approve the removal of the IID.

Violations of the IID requirement include:

  • Failing a breath test
  • Tampering with the IID
  • Driving a vehicle without an IID
  • Attempting to have another person test

Zero Tolerance for Underage DUI

It's illegal for anyone under 21 to have or consume alcohol. With 27% of fatal accidents with teenage drivers, alcohol was a significant factor. Virginia takes a hard stance on underage DUIs. Under its zero-tolerance law, if your blood alcohol content is 0.02% or more, law enforcement will charge you.

A first offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If adjudicated delinquent or convicted, your penalties include:

  • One-year driver's license suspension
  • $500 fine or
  • 50 hours of community service
  • Completion of the Alcohol Safety Action Program

Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP)

Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) is a required alcohol education and evaluation program for DUI offenders. VASAP provides assessment services to evaluate your alcohol or drug use. Should you need further treatment, the program will take the necessary steps to get treatment or counseling. Often, the judge will make these recommendations a condition of your sentence or probation to ensure you follow through.

Substance abuse education course focuses on the relationship between substance use and dangerous driving over five weeks.

Virginia DUI Resources:

Charged With a DUI in Virginia? A DUI Attorney Can Help

Facing a DUI charge can be overwhelming. While you can represent yourself, having a DUI lawyer on your side can make your DUI case move more smoothly. A Virginia DWI conviction carries harsh penalties and repercussions. A good first step in understanding your case and options is to speak with an experienced Virginia DUI defense attorney in your area.

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