Drunk driving in Virginia is a serious charge that not only carries severe penalties on conviction, but can remain on an individual’s criminal record. In addition, driving restrictions from a license suspension can create hardships such as job loss, or challenges for a parent who needs transportation to take care of family.
When law enforcement initially pulls a driver over, it may be for a minor traffic violation or unusual driving behavior. But the officer may already suspect that the driver is intoxicated based on a checklist of common DUI signs, such as bloodshot eyes or slurred speech. Everything from this point on, from field sobriety to breath tests, is done with the intention of gathering enough evidence to make an arrest.
In Virginia, as in most states, the legal limit for DUI is 0.08% blood alcohol level (BAC) or higher. But a driver can also be charged with a DUI even if they have a lower BAC if their driving behavior appears impaired, or if they are under the influence of any drug. A first offense for DUI can include a mandatory minimum fine of $250, license suspension for one year, ignition interlock and assignment to an alcohol education program.
Zero tolerance laws prohibit the consumption, purchase or possession of alcohol of drivers under the age of 21, and a BAC from 0.02 to 0.08% will lead to mandatory fines and license suspension.
The BAC limit for commercial drivers is 0.04%, and conviction for a first offense can lead to fines of up to $2,500, disqualification from driving a commercial vehicle for one year and possible jail time.
Many people do not realize the effect of additional charges on top of a DUI that can compound already stiff penalties. Questioning the officer can lead to disorderly conduct charges. Open container laws can add penalties, and a conviction of a DUI involving a passenger aged 17 or younger can carry an additional five-day jail sentence.
Implied consent laws require that anyone who operates a vehicle on a public road submit to a breath or blood test. Refusal of such a test may lead to an automatic one-year license suspension.
Virginia drivers, as well as out-of-town drivers passing through the state, can face harsh consequences for a DUI conviction that can upend their lives. Having experienced legal counsel serving the Richmond area can help you defend your rights and negotiate sentencing in order to minimize the severity of the penalties.