Driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants (DUI/DWI), continues to be a top cause of road crashes. In 2018 10,511 deadly road crashes involved an impaired driver. These included motorists whose blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeded the legal limit.
The big questions are what exactly is the BAC limit in Virginia? What are the DUI laws in Virginia? What penalties does a DUI carry? Most importantly, is a DUI a felony in the state?
This post will answer all these questions (and more), so be sure to keep reading!
What Is BAC?
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is a measurement of alcohol in the bloodstream. Expressed in a decimal percentage, it measures either ethyl alcohol or ethanol. The more drinks you have at a quick succession, the higher your BAC will get.
For example, if your BAC reaches 0.10%, that means that your blood supply has one part of alcohol for every 1,000 parts of blood.
In Virginia, it’s unlawful to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08%, much less 0.10%. This is for regular motorists aged 21 or above. For commercial vehicle drivers, the BAC limit is 0.04%.
The state also makes it illegal for motorists aged 20 or below to drive with a BAC of 0.02%. Nearly any amount of alcohol can make the BAC of younger individuals rise to that level.
How Does Virginia Define DUI?
In Virginia, there are two ways that motorists can be driving under the influence.
First is by “DUI Per Se”, wherein the driver’s BAC chemical test shows a BAC of 0.08% or higher. The chemical test can either be through a blood, breath, or urine test.
A driver can also face a DUI charge if a judge finds, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol. This is typically proven by the officer’s account of the driver’s appearance, behaviors, and performance of standard field sobriety tests.
One doesn’t need to be drunk to violate the state’s DUI laws. A DUI charge can befall anyone who gets behind the wheel with impaired driving abilities. These include motorists who drive while impaired (DWI) by substances. Those substances can be illegal drugs, prescription medication, or marijuana.
Virginia’s DUI Penalties
In Virginia, driving under the influence is a criminal offense. That means that it is punishable by up to one year in jail. For a first offense, you’ll also be required to pay a fine of no less than $250. The state will also suspend your license for one year, and you will be required to enter into and successfully complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program.
For a second offense, you will also face a jail term of at least 10 to 20 days, depending on the date of your previous convictions and the fine becomes a minimum of $500. In addition, the license suspension becomes a three-year suspension.
When DUI Becomes a Felony in Virginia
Virginia classifies a third conviction for a DUI offense as a Class 6 felony. The third DUI must have occurred within ten years from the first two convictions. So, if your two prior DUI convictions are within ten years from the third, you’ll face a Class 6 felony charge.
As a Class 6 felony, a DUI 3rd offense is punishable by one to five years in state prison. Offenses that occur within five years of each other carry a mandatory jail term of six months, which can be higher for elevated blood alcohol content, and a minimum fine of $1000. Those that occur within 10 years have a mandatory sentence of 90 days, which can also be higher with an elevated blood alcohol content, and a minimum fine of $500. In either case, your driver’s license will be suspended indefinitely and you will be a convicted felon for life.
First or Second DUI Classified as a Class 6 Felony
A DUI need not be a third offense to be classified as a felony. If a DUI/DWI accident leads to serious bodily injuries, the state can charge the offender with a Class 6 felony. . So, even if it’s a first DUI conviction, it can be charged as a Class 6 felony if the crash causes serious bodily injury. Furthermore, a first or second DUI conviction can be charged as a Class 4 felony in Virginia if another person sustained permanent and significant physical impairment as a result of a DUI. Such injuries include visible disfigurements, a loss of a body part, or impairment of an organ.
Don’t Let a DUI Conviction Result in a Felony Conviction
If you are charged with a DUI, it’s best to speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. With the help of DUI lawyers, you can build a strong case to prevent your DUI charge from becoming a felony on your record.
If you’re facing a DUI charge, know that BernsteinHough P.C. can help defend you. Get in touch with our law firm now so we can provide you with a free consultation ASAP!