Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in Virginia

Distraught Man With Alcohol, Medications, and Car KeysDriving while intoxicated is illegal in Virginia. When we hear the terms driving while intoxicated, DWI, or DUI, we often think of drunk driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a common type of DWI, but driving while under the influence of other types of drugs can also lead to a DUI conviction.

Virginia Law Prohibits Drugged Driving

Virginia Code §18.2-266 makes it a crime to drive:

  • Under the influence of any narcotic drug,

  • Under the influence of any intoxicant or drug to a degree that impairs the ability to drive safely,
     
  • Under the influence of alcohol and any drug to a degree that impairs the ability to drive safely,
     
  • With a blood concentration equal to greater than 0.02 milligrams of cocaine per liter of blood,
     
  • With a blood concentration equal to greater than 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamine per liter of blood,
     
  • With a blood concentration equal to greater than 0.01 milligrams of phencyclidine (PCP) per liter of blood, and
     
  • With a blood concentration equal to greater than 0.1 milligrams of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) per liter of blood.

While the statute mentions cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP, and MDMA specifically, other illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications can also result in a DUI conviction. These drugs include but are not limited to marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, sleep medications, and medicines that list drowsiness and dizziness as side effects.

The Government Needs Evidence for a Drugged Driving Conviction

Commonwealth prosecutors need clear and convincing evidence to prove that you were operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs in violation of state law. Unlike alcohol, there is no breathalyzer test for drugs. Instead, the government may rely on:

  • Witness and police testimony about your appearance and behavior
     
  • Witness and police testimony about the smell of drugs on your body or clothing
     
  • The results of a blood test taken shortly after the alleged incident or arrest
     
  • The results of field sobriety tests

Much of this evidence is subjective, and a skilled Fairfax DUI defense lawyer will make sure that all evidence is thoroughly analyzed and that any concerns about the validity of evidence are raised with the court. Ultimately, the state must prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be convicted.

Potential Penalties for Drugged Driving

Unless an exception applies, a violation of Virginia’s DUI law is a Class 1 misdemeanor. According to Virginia Code §18.270:

  • A first DUI offense results in a sentence that includes a jail term of up to one year, a fine of up to $2,500, or both of these punishments. There is a mandatory minimum fine of $250.
  • A DUI with a BAC of at least .15 but not more than .20 shall be confined in jail for an additional mandatory minimum period of five days.

  • A DUI with a BAC of more than .20 shall be confined in jail for an additional mandatory minimum period of 10 days.

  • A second DUI offense within five years of the first offense has a mandatory minimum fine of $500 and a jail sentence of one month to one year. The mandatory minimum sentence will be 20 days of confinement.
     
  • A second DUI offense within five to 10 years of the first offense also has a mandatory minimum fine of $500. Additionally, a conviction results in a jail sentence of at least one month, with 10 days of confinement being the mandatory minimum sentence.
     
  • A third DUI offense within 10 years of the first offense is a Class 6 felony. A Class 6 felony has a potential sentence of one to five years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both punishments. If you are convicted of three DUI offenses within 10 years, then you will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days. If the three convictions were within five years, then you will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of six months. In either case, your minimum fine will be $1,000. Additionally, the vehicle you owned and operated is subject to seizure and forfeiture.
     
  • If you are convicted of a DUI Class 6 felony, then any subsequent DUI conviction will also be a Class 6 felony. This time, you will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in jail and a pay a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. Again, the vehicle you owned and operated is subject to seizure and forfeiture.

If a person 17 years old or younger was in the car while you were driving under the influence, then you face additional legal consequences.

Protect Your Rights Before a Drugged Driving Conviction

You don’t want to serve jail time, pay a fine, or deal with any other consequences of a criminal conviction if you didn’t commit the crime. Contact our Fairfax drugged driving defense lawyers today to make sure that your rights are protected. We welcome your call, online chat, or completed contact form at any time.