Coates & Davenport, P.C.

Virginia bill increases penalties for certain DUI offense

It is well known that drunk driving can cause car accidents. Some of these accidents seriously injure other people on the road. Accidents as these can lead to DWI charges, including DWI maiming of another. However, one bill making its way through the Virginia legislature will change the way these incidents are penalized.

The Virginia House of Delegates has passed a bill that would toughen penalties imposed on drunk drivers. Under HB 1941, if a drunk driver causes serious bodily harm to another, it will be penalized as a Class 4 felony. Currently, if a drunk driver causes another to suffer serious injuries but these injuries are not permanent, it is only a Class 6 felony.

The bill has seen almost unanimous support amongst legislators, but there will be a financial impact should the offense rise from a Class 6 felony to a Class 4 felony, as it would under the bill. According to the Department of Planning and Funding, the expenses related to incarceration should the bill pass would amount to around $50,000 annually. The House of Delegates included these costs in its budget when it passed the bill. The bill will now head to the Virginia Senate for approval, and these costs must also be made a part of the Senate's budget.

When a person in Virginia is driving under the influence and causes a car crash, he or she could be criminally charged. Efforts are often made to impose harsher penalties on drunk drivers, but it is always important that the penalty fits the crime. Felony crimes could have a major effect on the life of one charged with that crime. Felonies generally involve a year or more in prison along with significant fines. It is important that those charged with DUI crimes understand their criminal defense options.

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