You are probably familiar with the basics of drunk driving laws in Virginia, so you know you face harsh penalties for a DUI conviction. Your driver’s license will be revoked for 12 months, you could receive a mandatory minimum fine of $250, and the court could issue a fine up to $2,500. Plus, drunk driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, so the court could order incarceration for up to 12 months. However, there are additional details regarding state laws that many people do not know. Many people are shocked by the complex rules along the timeline of a typical DUI case, from the moment you are pulled over to the verdict after a trial.
Surprises are enjoyable in many situations, but not when they could have a significant impact on the outcome of a drunk driving case. To avoid being taken off guard, you should consult with a Virginia DWI/DUI defense lawyer as early on in the criminal process as possible. You might also find it useful to review five drunk driving laws all motorists should know.
- Blood alcohol content (BAC) is not the only factor that can lead to a drunk driving arrest. Most motorists are aware of the “legal limit” under Virginia’s statute on Driving While Intoxicated, which is .08 percent. If a breathalyzer or other chemical test reveals a BAC at this level or higher, you face charges for drunk driving per se.
What you may not know is that there is another basis for police to make a DUI arrest: You could be charged for driving while impaired by alcohol without even taking a chemical test, simply from the subjective impressions of officers. Examples are bloodshot eyes, the odor of alcohol, slurred speech, or your performance on field sobriety tests. The charges and penalties are the same for DUI per se and a driving while impaired.
- Virginia has Zero Tolerance for underage drivers. The .08 percent BAC only applies to motorists who are 21 years or older, since this is the legal age to consume alcohol. Drivers under age 21 are subject to so-called Zero Tolerance laws, which impose a legal limit of .02 percent. It does not take much more than a sip of alcohol to register this amount in a chemical test.
- You face serious consequences for refusing a breath test. Like all other US states, Virginia has an implied consent law that applies to all motorists as a condition of receiving a driver’s license. The statute states that, if arrested, you agree to submit to a breathalyzer test to measure BAC. Law enforcement may also opt for a blood or urine test for purposes of DUI cases. If you refuse, your driver’s license is automatically suspended for 12 months; a second refusal results in an automatic three-year suspension, and is a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
Note that you could still be convicted for DUI despite your refusal to take a chemical test, because officials could rely on the impairment standard mentioned in #1 above. As such, your refusal to blow is a charge in addition to drunk driving.
- You face harsher penalties for excessive BAC. The.08 percent BAC measurement is a minimum standard for DUI per se, but there is another level you need to know. Motorists could face enhanced penalties if a chemical test returns a BAC higher than .15 percent, a charge termed an “excessive DUI” case. There is a mandatory minimum of five days in jail for a first offense. For BAC in excess of .20 percent, the jail sentence will be at least 10 days.
- There are additional consequences beyond DUI criminal penalties. You may be focused on the punishment described above, but there are other consequences. For instance:
- The court could order you to install and pay for an ignition interlock device (IID);
- Your insurance rates could skyrocket;
- You could lose your job if it requires driving; and,
- Any professional licenses you hold may be revoked.
Discuss Your Rights with a Virginia DWI/DUI Defense Attorney
These are just a few of the drunk driving laws that can come as an unwelcome surprise to Virginia motorists, but there are many others that favor your position. You may have defenses or options for avoiding some of the most severe penalties, and a skilled lawyer can assist with strategy. To learn how our team at Leary Law, P.C. can help, please contact our offices in Manassas or Fairfax, VA. We can schedule a consultation to review your circumstances and decide how to move forward.