For anyone who has consumed alcohol and then gotten behind the wheel of a vehicle, there is almost nothing more frightening than seeing a law enforcement official’s lights flashing behind the vehicle. The only way to avoid that possibility is to never drive drunk. For those who have been charged with drunk driving in Virginia, learning about the laws and knowing defense strategies might help them as they navigate through the criminal justice system to face the charges placed against them.
Virginia uses the same scale as many other states to set limits for intoxication levels while driving. People who are 21 or younger have a blood-alcohol concentration limit of .02 percent. Those who operate commercial vehicles have a BAC limit of .04 percent. Other drivers have a limit of .08 percent.
Each drunk driving conviction carries more stringent penalties than the previous conviction. The actual BAC level of the driver also plays a part in the penalties received for a drunk driving conviction. Penalties are also increased if there were minors in the vehicle at the time of the drunk driving traffic stop.
The first time a person is convicted of drunk driving in Virginia, they face a license suspension of one year. That suspension period is mandatory. Additionally, a jail sentence might be imposed. If a minor was in the vehicle or if the BAC was .15 to .19, a five-day minimum jail term applies. If the BAC was .20 or higher, a 10-day minimum jail sentence applies. Additionally, a fine of at least $250 will be imposed. If the BAC was .15 or higher, an ignition interlock device must be used.
The consequences for a second drunk driving conviction depends on how much time has elapsed since the prior conviction. A mandatory fine of at least $500 applies to all second drunk driving convictions. A license revocation of three years is mandatory. A mandatory minimum jail sentence of 10 days is imposed if the prior conviction was six to 10 years prior. If the prior conviction was within five years, that jail term is at least 20 days. Community service, additional fines, and more time in jail is imposed if a child was in the vehicle. Also, all vehicles the defendant drives must have an ignition interlock device installed once the person’s license is reinstated in a restricted or full privilege status.
First and second convictions for drunk driving are misdemeanors, but the third conviction is a felony charge if the arrest occurs within 10 years of the first conviction. The fine is at least $1,000 on this conviction. If the prior convictions were within six to 10 years prior, a 90 day mandatory minimum jail term applies. If the prior convictions were within five years prior, that jail sentence is a six month mandatory minimum. On a third conviction within 10 years, the vehicle driven at the time of the arrest is forfeited. Additionally, the driver’s license is revoked indefinitely on a third conviction.
People who are facing their first drunk driving charge might be able to plead guilty to the lesser charge of reckless driving. This plea deal isn’t forbidden by Virginia law; however, it isn’t written into the law either. That means that working with an experienced drunk driving attorney is vital since that lawyer might be able to work out the deal with the prosecutor.