Most of the time, people use the phrases “drunk driving” and “driving under the influence” interchangeably.
In Virginia, however, “DUI” also refers to driving while under the influence of drugs.
These charges are commonly referred to as DUI
In this article, we’ll go over how Virginia punishes individuals who drive under the influence of drugs.
We’ll also talk about the specific penalties Virginia sets for individuals convicted of this crime.
How Does Virginia Define Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID)?
The same law that prohibits drunk driving also forbids driving while under the influence of certain drugs.
Specifically, the Virginia Code criminalizes driving with the following amounts of drugs in your system:
- Any amount of narcotics.
- 0.1 milligram or more of methamphetamine per liter of blood.
- 0.1 milligram or more of phencyclidine (PCP) per liter of blood.
- 0.2 milligrams or more of cocaine per liter of blood.
- 0.1 milligram or more of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) per liter of blood.
The law also prohibits driving under the effect of any drug, or cocktail of drugs, that negatively impacts your ability to drive.
Additionally, the law makes it illegal to drive with a combination of both drugs and alcohol in your system.
What matters here isn’t so much the specific amounts of drugs in your system.
Rather, courts will punish you for driving while your senses were negatively impaired.
While the types of drugs in your system still matter, your sentence will often depend more on how much danger you put yourself and others in by choosing to drive.
In a similar manner, you should also note that the law makes no distinction between legal and illegal drugs.
This means that driving under the effects of codeine, for example, is still illegal, even if you have a valid prescription.
What is Impaired Driving?
As we mentioned earlier, a person’s impairment often matters more when it comes to DUID than the actual drugs in their system.
Even over-the-counter cold medicine can result in a DUID charge if taken in such a way that it impairs your ability to drive.
In Virginia, if your BAC level (for both alcohol and drugs) matches or exceeds the specified amount in the code then you are legally impaired.
However, the judge might also consider you impaired at their own discretion based on a variety of other factors.
If you’re unable to do any one of those, a judge might also decide that you were driving while impaired.
Can You Receive DUID Charges for Driving Under the Effects of Marijuana?
While the Virginia code doesn’t specifically list marijuana in the DUI statute, driving under the effects of marijuana can still result in a DUID charge.
That’s because, as mentioned above, the law covers any drug that negatively impacts your ability to drive in a dangerous way.
Under Virginia law, this includes marijuana.
As a result, the state prosecutes many marijuana-related DUID charges every year.
What are the Penalties for DUID?
However, keep in mind that courts punish DUID offenders at their own discretion.
While the court must follow Virginia’s sentencing guidelines, judges can hand out a wide variety of sentences within those guidelines.
For this reason, the “standard” penalties below may not apply in all cases.
However, in general you can expect the following sentences:
- For your first offense, the court will fine you a minimum of $250. The state will also suspend your license for one year.
- For a second offense, the fine goes up to a minimum of $500. The state may also assign you a jail sentence of up to one year. Finally, the state will suspend your license for a minimum of three years.
- After that, DUID becomes a Class 6 felony. This entails a maximum fine of $2,500, and up to five years in prison. The state will also suspend your license indefinitely.
Even if the state suspends your license as a result of a DUID conviction, you may be able to apply for restricted driving privileges.
This means that you will be able to drive, but only in order to go to the places specified on your court documents.
Usually, suspended driving licenses limit you to driving to work, school, or other locations necessary to daily life.
If you violate these terms by driving outside of the court’s restrictions, you will lose your driving privileges entirely.
In addition to the penalties described above, there’s one other charge you should know about.
Virginia also has what’s called an “implied consent” law.
This name refers to the idea that, in applying for your license, you consented to breathalyzer and blood tests for drugs and alcohol.
Essentially, this means that you cannot legally refuse a breathalyzer or blood test when a police officer arrests you for a DUI or DUID.
Not only does doing so constitute proof of DUI or DUID
As with DUID, the penalties for refusing a test depend on whether or not it’s your first offense.
For the first offense, the offense would be considered a civil matter with the penalty being a one-year license suspension.
After that, subsequent offenses constitute a criminal offense, and entail a three-year license suspension.
This is on top of any license suspension resulting from the DUID charge itself.
Driving under the influence of drugs is a serious crime in the state of Virginia.
As with alcohol-related DUI, your best bet for avoiding charges is simply to avoid driving after taking any drug that could influence your behavior or reaction time.
This includes many legal and over-the-counter drugs—what matters is your impairment, not the legality of the drug.
If you do find yourself charged with DUID, contact a lawyer immediately.
Even a first-time DUI or DUID charge can have significant consequences, including fines and license revocation.
Fortunately, an experienced DUI lawyer can help you work through the process and represent you in court.
By getting in touch with a lawyer early, you can give yourself the best possible chance to receive lesser charges or build a defense.