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The Basics of DWI DUI Laws in Virginia

Driving under the influence, also known as DWI and DUI in Virginia, is a very serious crime. Virginia DUI penalties can be severe, depending on your blood-alcohol content (BAC) as well as the number of DUI convictions you already have on your record.

The best way to avoid a DUI conviction is to not drink and drive. However, if you have already been arrested for the crime, you should contact a Virginia DUI attorney to help understand your rights and legal defenses available under the law.

What is DUI in Virginia?

If your BAC is .08 percent or above, or if your driving is impaired by alcohol consumption (regardless of BAC), you can be charged with a DUI in Virginia.

Virginia DUI penalties increase as your BAC increases. The three levels of BAC in Virginia are:

  • Below .15 percent
  • .15 percent to .20 percent
  • Above .20 percent

Those convicted of committing multiple DUIs within 10 years face additional penalties. You may even be convicted of a class 6 felony in Virginia if you commit three or more DUIs within your lifetime.

Zero-Tolerance Laws in Virginia

The laws covering DUI in Virginia separately address those who are caught drinking and driving under the age of 21. These laws are known as zero-tolerance laws in Virginia.

For those under 21, the legal limit for BAC is .02 percent. If you are under 21 and your BAC is at least .02 percent but below .08 percent, you may be fined up to $500, face jail time, and have your driver's license suspended for six months. If your BAC is .08 percent or above, you will suffer the same penalties as someone who is 21 or older.

Penalties for Refusing a BAC Test

If you are suspected of committing DUI in Virginia, a Virginia police officer will gauge your BAC through a breath test or a chemical test, such as a blood test. In some instances, the office may choose to administer both tests.

Virginia has what are called implied consent laws on the books. When you obtain a Virginia driver's license, you agree to consent to BAC testing if a police officer suspects you of drinking and driving. You do have the option to refuse the breath and chemical tests. However, doing so entails serious consequences.

Specifically, the first time you refuse a breath test, the court will suspend your driver's license for one year. If you are charged again with DUI and refuse BAC testing, you will be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor. If you have two DUI convictions and refuse BAC testing, you will be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. Both a class 2 and class 1 misdemeanor carry three-year license suspensions.

Virginia DUI Arrests

The laws regarding DUI in Virginia have some unique provisions when it comes to DUI arrests.

For example, say you were involved in a car accident. The police officer may try to establish probable cause that you were drunk when the accident occurred. Probable cause means that the office has a reasonable belief that you broke the law. Things that might help the officer develop probable cause include:

  • If the office witnessed the accident and saw you driving erratically
  • If, after the accident, the office notices you have slurred speech
  • If the office smells alcohol on your breath after the accident

If the office establishes probable cause, then he or she may arrest you for DUI within three hours of the accident without a warrant and at any location.

Also, if you have been arrested for DUI and it is your third offense or more within a five-year period, the judge will not grant you bail. This means that you will remain in jail while awaiting your trial.