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When a driver in Virginia is arrested on a DUI charge, there are various issues that will come to the forefront when it is decided as to how severe the charges are. Depending on the circumstances, it can rise to a felony drunk driving charge. Knowing how state law views DUI will provide insight as to the level of charges a driver will face when arrested and the subsequent penalties that could be assessed after a conviction.

If a person is convicted of DUI three times within 10 years, the charge will not be a misdemeanor as it is with earlier charges, but a Class 6 felony. For a person who was convicted of three DUI offenses within 10 years, the penalties will include a minimum jail sentence of 90 days. If the three offenses occurred within five years, there will be a mandatory six months in jail. There will also be a fine of at least $1,000.

A driver who is convicted of a fourth DUI or more within 10 years will be sentenced to at least one year in jail. There will be a fine for a minimum of $1,000. A person who was convicted of felony drunk driving will also be subject to having his or her vehicle seized and forfeited if it was owned and operated during the committing of the act. The mandatory minimum penalties will be cumulative. If there is a jail term, it will be served consecutively. The punishments will not surpass the statutory maximum for the state even if it is a felony charge.

Considering the harsh penalties for a DUI charge when it is elevated to a felony, it is imperative to know how the law works and what to do to try and reduce the charges or be acquitted. There is always the possibility that the testing procedures were not followed by law enforcement or that the traffic stop was made without just cause. Having help from a legal professional experienced in defending drivers confronted by felony drunk driving charges is the first step an accused driver should take.

Source: leg1.state.va.us, "18.2-270. Penalty for driving while intoxicated; subsequent offense; prior conviction," accessed on June 29, 2015

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