Virginia DUI Laws: FAQ

What is the legal drinking limit for drivers in Virginia?

The blood alcohol limit in Virginia is a 0.08 BAC, unless you are under the age of 21. If you are under the age of 21 and your BAC is 0.02 or higher then you are legally intoxicated. Additionally, the legal limit for commercial drivers is a BAC of 0.04 or above.

What happens if I refuse to take a Chemical Test in Virginia?

If a suspect refuses the chemical test, and the refusal is "unreasonable," the suspect will lose his driving privileges in Virginia for the civil offense of "Refusing to Submit." At the trial, the person will usually be charged with both DUI and Refusal to Submit. However, the prosecutor will have to prove the DUI without the use of the chemical evidence. The state can tell the judge or jury that the reason they do not have the chemical evidence is that the defendant refused.

This obviously is an advantage for the defendant. However, the defendant will be faced with the probable loss of his driving privileges for one year. The Courts do not give restricted driving privileges in Refusal cases. 

Do I have a choice of Blood Alcohol Level Tests under Virginia DUI Law?

At the scene of the arrest, police officers will frequently offer what is called alco­sensor. The alco­sensor is a notoriously inaccurate breath test. It is used merely to show a person has alcohol in their system. Because of its inaccuracy, it is inadmissible in a trial; it merely shows probable cause for the arrest. When the person is taken back to the station for the "official" test they are usually only offered a breath test. Recently, the breath test was established by the Virginia General Assembly as the main test. Thus, the defendant does not have a choice of tests. He must take the breath test. However, if a breath test is not readily available or practical, the blood test shall be offered.

What are the penalties for a DUI conviction in Virginia?

Conviction for DUI first offense:

  • Mandatory, minimum $250 fine,
  • Driver’s license revocation for one year.


Conviction for DUI second offense:

  • Mandatory, minimum $500 fine,
  • Driver’s license revocation for three years,
  • Possible jail term up to one year.


DUI Conviction second offense within ten years:

  • Mandatory, minimum ten-day jail term


Conviction for DUI second offense within five years:

  • Mandatory, minimum 20-day jail term


DUI Conviction third offense

  • Mandatory, minimum $1,000 fine,
  • Mandatory indefinite driver’s license revocation, and
  • Prosecution as a Class 6 felony


Conviction for DUI third offense within five years:

  • Mandatory, minimum six-month jail term


Conviction for DUI third offense within ten years:

  • Mandatory, minimum 90-day jail term,
  • Permanent forfeiture of your vehicle (if you are the sole owner)

Three DUI convictions within a ten-year period

  • Mandatory, indefinite driver’s license revocation


Additionally, if your driving privilege is revoked for a first or second DUI offense conviction and you receive another DUI, the license revocation period will run consecutively with the existing revocation period.


Conviction for DUI fourth or subsequent offense

  • Mandatory, minimum one-year jail term,

 

BAC of (0.15-0.20 at the time of DUI arrest):

First offense:

  • Mandatory, minimum five-day jail term in addition to all other penalties


Second offense within ten years:

  • Mandatory, minimum ten-day jail term in addition to all other penalties

 

BAC of 0.20% or higher at the time of arrest:

First offense:

  • Mandatory ten-day jail term in addition to all other penalties


Second offense within ten years:

  • Mandatory, minimum 20-day jail term in addition to all other penalties

What happens if the police officer failed to read me my rights after a DUI arrest in Virginia?

There is a common misconception that when an officer fails to read a person their Miranda Rights (i.e., "You have the right to remain silent, you have a right to an attorney. . .") the case will be dismissed. The Miranda warning only affects the admissibility of statements made by an accused after the person is arrested.

For example, if a person is pulled over because his tail lights are not working and he blurts out to the police officer, "I'm drunk as a skunk and I never should have been driving!", this can be used against the person because the person was neither arrested nor in custody. However, if the person is in handcuffs and, answering the officer's questions says, "I was drunk as a skunk and never should have been driving", the police cannot use this statement unless they have read the person their rights.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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