If you are stopped by the police when driving after consuming alcohol or drugs, you may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). This is a serious offense that can result in serious consequences, such as a jail sentence, fines, loss of your driver's license, and a permanent criminal record. DUI charges can haunt your life long after you complete your sentence, but an experienced Fairfax DUI attorney may be able to help you get the charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense—or negotiate a favorable outcome on your behalf. An experienced attorney may also be able to identify legal problems with the prosecution's case and leverage those weaknesses to obtain a better result for you.
The Difference Between DUI and DWI in Virginia
DUI and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are often used interchangeably when discussing drunk driving charges in Virginia, but in reality, they are one and the same. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-266, you can be charged with DUI if you drive with a blood alcohol content level (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. You can be charged with this whether or not you appear intoxicated. Under this law, you can also be charged with DUI if you drive and a police officer observes that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
There are two exceptions for the 0.08 percent BAC requirement to be charged with DUI. These include the following:
- Commercial drivers can be charged with DUI if their BAC is 0.04 percent or higher
- A person under 21 years old can be charged with DUI if his or her BAC is .02 percent or higher.
Penalties for a First DUI Offense
A conviction for a first offense DUI can carry serious consequences, which is why you do not want to treat the charges lightly. Possible penalties include:
- Class 1 misdemeanor conviction—and a permanent criminal record
- Jail sentence not to exceed 12 months that may be suspended partially or entirely by the judge
- Mandatory minimum jail sentence of five days if the BAC level was at least 0.15 percent but less than 0.20 percent, or 10 days if the BAC was 0.20 percent or higher
- Minimum fine of $250 up to a maximum of $2,500
- Completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) and one year of probation
- Driver’s license suspension for one year. Depending on your driving record, you may be able to obtain a restricted operator's license that would allow you to drive to and from certain locations only and during certain timeframes. If you are granted a restricted license, Virginia law requires you to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for at least six months. However, if you are convicted of unreasonable refusal of a breath or blood test, then you cannot obtain a restricted license. Instead, you will lose your privilege to drive for a full year.
Second Offense DUI Penalties
If you are convicted of a second offense DUI, you will also be convicted of a Class 1 Misdemeanor. However, the consequences are more severe. You may face the following:
- Minimum 20 days in jail for a second offense within five years, or a minimum of 10 days in jail for a second offense within ten years
- Mandatory fine of at least $500
- Additional mandatory jail sentence of 10 days with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher, but less than 0.20 percent, or 20 days if the BAC is 0.20 percent or higher
- Driver’s license suspension for three years, with the possibility of obtaining a restricted license in some cases
- Installation of an ignition interlock system for a minimum of six months with a restricted license
Third and Fourth DUI Offenses
If you are charged with a third or fourth DUI offense, you are being charged with a Class 6 felony, and the sentence you face is much more severe. Penalties for a third offense within 10 years include:
- Prison sentence of up to five years, with a minimum six-month sentence for a third offense within five years, or a minimum of 90 days in jail for a third offense within ten years
- Fine of up to $2,500, with a $1,000 minimum fine if the prior offenses were within the prior ten years
- Indefinite license suspension, with the ability to petition the court for a restricted license after three years and for full restoration of driving privileges after five years
A fourth DUI conviction within ten years may result in a prison sentence of between a mandatory minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 5 years and a fine not to exceed $2,500, with a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.
Call Our Office to Schedule Your Appointment Today
If you were charged with DUI, you do not want to face the charges without an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side. Even if you know that you are guilty of driving after consuming alcohol, you may have defenses to the charges. We will aggressively fight to have the charges against you dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge. To learn about how we can help, call our office today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.