Drunk Driving Defense Law in West Virginia

Drunk driving is illegal in West Virginia, and you can be pulled over for suspicion alone. For instance, if a police officer sees you briefly swerve into the wrong lane, and he or she thinks that you may be intoxicated, the officer then has probable cause to make a traffic stop and look into things further. If the officer suspects that you are under the influence of alcohol, you could be asked to perform field sobriety tests —- such as walking a straight line, balancing on one leg, or reciting the alphabet—or you could be given a breath test.

West Virginia BAC Levels

The breath test itself is the surest way for an officer to determine whether or not you are drunk -— seeing as how some field sobriety tests are hard even for sober drivers. The breath test measures your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), which cannot be over 0.08 if you are 21 or older. If you are under 21, your BAC cannot exceed 0.02. If you are a commercial driver who is 21 or older, your BAC cannot be more than 0.04.

West Virginia Drunk Driving Penalties

Like many states, West Virginia uses a system for drunk driving penalties that increases the penalties for subsequent arrests. Below are the possible penalties for a first, second, or third conviction.

Your first conviction could get you:

  • As much as six months in jail, though jail time is often avoided for first-time offenders
  • Fines ranging from $100 to $1,000
  • A driver's license suspension that ranges from 15 days to 45 days

Your second DUI conviction could get you:

  • Jail time ranging from six months to 12 months
  • Fines that start at $1,000 and could go up to $3,000
  • A license suspension that lasts for an entire year

Your third DUI conviction could get you:

  • Jail time ranging from one year to three years
  • Fines that fall between $3,000 and $5,000
  • A license suspension of one year

As you can see, these are listed as possible penalties, as the judge has a bit of leeway, in certain situations, with exactly what type of sentence you get. However, this structure gives you an idea of what you may be looking at for each conviction.

Refuse a West Virginia Breath Test?

Many people think that the best thing to do, if pulled over on suspicion of a DUI, is to refuse to take the breath test. You do have a right to do this, but you should know that the law in West Virginia is known as an implied consent law. If you do refuse, whether you have been driving drunk or not, you will be given a punishment.

As with the DUI convictions, this works in a tiered system. First the first offense, you either lose your license for one year, or you lose it for 45 days and you must use an ignition interlock device for the next year. For a second refusal, your license will be taken for anywhere from five years to 10 years. For a third refusal, you lose your license for life.

Crafting a DUI Defense

While you do need to be aware of the DUI laws in West Virginia, you should also know that you can fight the charges and set up a DUI defense. It is best to get started as soon as possible after the arrest if you would like to do this. For example, some defense tactics include showing that the police did not follow the proper procedures during the stop or giving proof that you were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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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