There are actually two different ways for you to lose your driving priveleges after a DUI arrest.
First, the DMV will suspend your license for several days or weeks after your arrest. This process is called an “administrative license suspension.” Second, a judge can suspend your license for a year or more as part of your conviction.
In this article, we’ll go over how license suspension and revocation works in Virginia. We’ll also talk about how you can get your license reinstated if you do end up losing it to a DUI conviction.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Virginia
There are three main ways to end up with DUI charges in Virginia:
- Driving a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
- Operating a vehicle while significantly impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both.
- Having an open container of alcohol in your car, or other factors which could help prove you were drinking and driving.
If an officer catches you doing any one of these three things, they will arrest you and charge you with driving under the influence.
Administrative License Suspensions (ALS)
After your arrest, you will receive an administrative license suspension which will bar you from driving for 7 days. If this is your second offense, you will lose your license for either 60 days or until your trial, whichever comes first.
In Virginia, administrative license suspensions happen automatically to anyone charged with DUI. This means that if you refuse to take a blood or breath test upon your arrest for DUI, or your BAC level is 0.08 or higher, you will lose your license for at least one week.
Additional License Penalties for a DUI Conviction
If a judge convicts you of DUI in Virginia, they will either suspend or revoke your license.
License suspensions are temporary withdrawals of your driving privileges, while a license revocation is the complete termination of your license.
For a first or second offense of DUI, the judge will suspend your driving privileges for either 12 months (first offense) or 3 years (second offense). Unless you petition the court for a restricted license, you cannot drive during this period.
At the end of your waiting period, you can return to the court and have your license suspension lifted.
For a third or subsequent offense, they will revoke your license entirely. This means that you will lose your license and all related priveledges for at least 3 years, and often much longer.
After 3 years, you can return to the court and ask for a restricted license. However, before doing so you need to complete a few tasks related to your original conviction. These can include completing an ASAP evaluation and finishing any related classes, as well as paying any court costs, fines, or other monetary penalties.
In order to regain the full use of your license, you’ll have to wait at least 5 years after the date of your conviction.
Other Things to Consider
As we stated above, there are two general ways to lose your license during a DUI case: license suspension and license revocation. However, there are several other ways you can lose your driving privileges in Virginia.
The most common additional way to lose your license is through Virginia’s DMV demerit point system.
Virginia’s DMV Demerit Point System
The Virginia DMV also uses a demerit point system to suspend the driving privileges of individuals who break too many rules in a short period of time.
In Virginia, a conviction for driving under the influence always results in the DMV adding 6 demerit points on your license. These demerit points will stay on your driving record for 11 years.
If you reach negative 12 points, your license will be placed on probation for several months. Any further infractions during this time will result in the suspension of your license.
The only ways to gain points is to drive safely or take certain DMV approved classes.
If you drive safely for a full year, the DMV will place 1 “safe” point on your license, up to a maximum of 5 safe points. Similarly, taking a driving safety course will also award you 5 safe points.
Put another way, a single DUI conviction can offset more than five years of safe driving.
What this all means is that a DUI conviction increases the chance that you will lose your license sometime in the next 11 years.
For example, if a judge convicts you of DUI, and then you receive 3 speeding tickets in the next 5 years, the DMV may automatically suspend your license.
Can I Drive on a Suspended or Revoked License?
Normally, the answer is no.
Driving on a suspended or revoked license is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, punishable by large fines and several months in jail. In addition, the court will also increase the length of your license suspension for every offense.
This can result in a snowball effect in which you continually accumulate more court fees while your license remains suspended.
In certain circumstances, you can avoid this fate by applying for restricted driving privileges. The reason why your license is suspended or revoked will determine who you have to petition for a restricted license.
If the DMV suspended or revoked your license as a result of the demerit points system, you will have to petition the DMV for a restricted license. If the reason for the suspension or revocation was due to a DUI, you’ll instead petition the judge for a restricted license.
Each court will have slightly different procedures for applying for restricted driving privileges.
A restricted driver’s license only allows you to drive in very specific situations. For example, most restricted driver’s licenses allow you to drive to work, school, home, and the hospital or a pharmacy.
If a police officer catches you driving outside of those restrictions, you will lose your restricted driving privileges. Afterward, you will not be eligible for such privileges again.
In Virginia, a DUI conviction will always have serious consequences for your ability to drive.
In the best-case scenario, a DUI conviction will cause you to lose your license for a year or more. If you’re caught driving during this period, this penalty can be extended significantly.