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People in Virginia who have been charged with driving while drunk need to understand the laws of the state in order to prepare a strong defense. When law enforcement has probable cause to make a traffic stop of a driver suspected of driving under the influence, the driver is required to take a breath test or face charges of breath test refusal. There are various penalties for breath test refusal if the blood alcohol content level is above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. The driver's license will be suspended for specific amounts of time depending on the circumstances.

Driving with an open container of alcohol within reach of the driver and with the contents of the container reduced could lead to a charge of DWI if the driver shows signs of intoxication. A driver who has a juvenile 17-years-old or younger as a passenger will face a jail sentence of at least five days. This is in addition to other fines and penalties for drunk driving charges. For driving with a suspended license for DWI, the driver's vehicle will be impounded for 30 days. A conviction can extend that impoundment for up to 90 days.

Underage drunk driving involves drivers who are under 21-years-old. Since people under the age of 21 are not allowed to be drinking in the first place, the penalties for underage drunk driving are commensurate with that. If the person's BAC level is between 0.02 percent and 0.08 percent, there can be a suspension of driving privileges for a year, a minimum fine of $500 and 50 hours of community service. With a BAC level of 0.08 percent or above, the underage driver might be charged as an adult.

Since driving under the influence is seen as a dangerous act that can cause injury and death, it's treated seriously by law enforcement with penalties for refusing to take a breath test and for registering a blood alcohol content above the legal limit. When confronted with these charges, it must be remembered that law enforcement must follow certain rules during an investigation. If the evidence is not gathered according to the law, the charges might be reduced or dropped entirely. Since this post should not be seen as giving specific legal advice, it's imperative to have qualified legal assistance when dealing with any form of drunk driving charges.

Source: Virginia's Driving Manual, "Penalties: Alcohol and the Law," accessed on Oct. 26, 2014

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