What Happens to Repeat DUI Offenders in Virginia?

In Virginia, the penalties for driving under the influence shift depending on whether or not you’ve been convicted of DUI in the past 5-10 years.

In 2016, the Virginia DMV reported over 19,000 convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

However, not all of these individuals received the same sentence.

That’s because the Virginia Code bases the penalties for a DUI conviction on:

  1. The amount of alcohol you had in your system at the time of your arrest; and
  2. The number of times you’ve been convicted of DUI in the past.

In this article, we’ll explain how these consequences can vary, and give a broad overview of the different types of penalties you might face for a DUI conviction in Virginia.

What are the Consequences of a DUI Conviction in Virginia?

Sad man is caught driving under the influence of alcohol

In Virginia, DUI refers to both drunk driving and driving while impaired by drugs.

Throughout the state, the legal limit on blood-alcohol content is 0.08% for adults and 0.02% for individuals under 21.

If the police pull you over with a higher BAC than that, or if you test positive for certain drugs, you will more than likely face a DUI conviction.

As stated above, the particular consequences of a DUI conviction can vary based on whether or not you have a prior DUI conviction.

In most cases, courts will assign different sentences based on whether it’s your first, second, third or subsequent DUI conviction within a certain amount of time.

Note, however, that these are only the mandatory penalties.

The court also has the power to assign additional, case-specific punishments as they see fit.

These penalties can including driving classes, substance abuse programs, and other related punishments.

As one final thing to note, Virginia adheres to several general sentencing rules, called “sentencing guidelines.” 

These rules help judges across Virginia make consistent punishments for similar crimes.

However, the Virginia code also specifically calls for several mandatory minimum penalties for certain crimes.

After a conviction, the court will apply these mandatory penalties to your sentence regardless of what the judge chooses to do with your case.

For example, for a second offense a judge might assign 6 months in jail, but suspend all of that sentence if you perform community service.

However, the law still dictates that you spend at least 20 days in jail as a mandatory minimum sentence.

First Offense DUI Penalties

After an officer files charges against you for DUI, you will automatically receive a 7-day administrative license suspension from the DMV.

This means that you cannot drive for the week following the traffic stop.

If you receive a first offense DUI conviction, there are several general penalties you can expect in your sentence.

These can include:

  • A mandatory minimum fine of $250. (However, the judge can set the fine for an amount up to $2,500.)
  • Participation in certain drug and alcohol education programs.
  • The loss of your driving privileges for one year.

Additionally, these penalties can scale depending on how much alcohol you had in your system at the time of your arrest.

If the police pulled you over with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, the court will sentence you to a mandatory minimum of 5 days in jail.

If your BAC was above 0.20%, the Virginia code raises this mandatory minimum to 10 days in jail.

The Restricted Driver’s License

As one final note for first offenders, at the time of your conviction you may qualify for restricted driving privileges.

If there are no other circumstances that prevent you from qualifying for this special license, the court will allow you to drive at certain times of the day in order to go to work, school, and other pre-approved locations.

If you qualify for restricted driving privileges, you’ll have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

In order to start your vehicle, you’ll need to blow into this device to prove that you are not under the influence of alcohol.

You must pay any and all costs associated with the installation of the device.

If you violate these restrictions by driving at the wrong time of day or to the wrong place, the court will revoke your privileges.

Additionally, you will most likely face charges for driving without a license.

Second Offense DUI Penalties

One important thing to note about a second DUI offense is that the penalties change based on how long it’s been since your first conviction.

If you receive a second DUI conviction within 5 years, you will face:

  • A mandatory minimum fine of $500. You will also most likely face an additional fine of up to a maximum total fine of $2,500.
  • Confinement in jail for not less than 1 month and no more than 12 months, including a 20-day mandatory minimum sentence.
  • Administrative license suspension for 60 days, and a 3-year license revocation after a conviction.
  • Participation in certain drug and alcohol education programs.
  • Placement of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

If you receive a second DUI conviction within 5 to 10 years, the penalties include:

  • A mandatory minimum fine of $500, plus a possible additional fine of up to a maximum of $2,500.
  • Confinement in jail for not less than 1 month and no more than 12 months, including a 10-day mandatory minimum sentence.
  • Administrative license suspension for 60 days, and a 3-year license revocation after a conviction.
  • Participation in certain drug and alcohol education programs.
  • Placement of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

Similarly to the penalties for your first DUI conviction, for a second offense your sentence can change based on the amount of alcohol in your system.

If your BAC was above 0.15%, you’ll face 10 additional days in jail and another $500 fine on top of the usual penalties.

If you blow higher than a 0.20%, the court bumps these mandatory minimums up to an additional 20 days in jail and an additional $500 fine.

Third and Subsequent Offense DUI Penalties

Two important things happen upon a third conviction for DUI within 10 years.

First, your DUI offense automatically becomes a Class 6 felony.

This means that, upon conviction, you will lose several of your rights as a Virginia citizen.

These include your right to vote, your right to own firearms, and several more.

While most of these can eventually be reinstated through a petition to the state governor, there is no guarantee that you will be able to do so.

Additionally, the penalties for a third or subsequent conviction are much higher.

They include:

  • A mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 fine. However, the judge can set the fine for an amount up to $2,500.
  • A mandatory, indefinite revocation of your driver’s license.
  • A jail sentence of anywhere between 90 days and 1 year, or a prison sentence between 1 and 5 years.
  • Participation in certain drug and alcohol education programs.

For a fourth or subsequent offense, you will face similar penalties.

However, the court will sentence you to a mandatory minimum of at least 1 year in jail.

Conclusion

GPS navigation in car

DUI is a serious and dangerous offense, and Virginia law treats it as such.

In all cases, the best way to avoid a DUI conviction is to never drink and drive.

The cost of a cab or rideshare service are negligible compared to the considerable fines, jail time, and loss of driving privileges that accompany a DUI conviction in Virginia.

However, if you do end up with a DUI charge there are several legal options available to you.

The first, and most important thing you should do is contact a DUI lawyer as soon as possible.

An attorney can provide you with legal counsel, and help you build the best possible case for having the charges lowered, or even dropped altogether.

By hiring a lawyer, you can give yourself the best chance of defending yourself from the harshest penalties the Virginia code has to offer.

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