You’re driving along, and you glance in your rearview mirror. You see blue lights, and your heart drops. You know you have to pull over, and you may even know what you were doing wrong.
Most of us have been there at one time or another. But if you’ve been drinking, it adds a level of scariness to getting pulled over.
If this has happened to you, or if you’ve ever been charged with or suspected of a DUI in Virginia, we’re here to help and answer your questions about drunk driving laws.
WHAT IS A DUI?
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, you are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle, moped, or even a train while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. One way of measuring whether a driver is driving under the influence (DUI) is done by determining whether the amount of alcohol/drugs in the driver’s system is over the legal alcohol limit in VA.
While most DUI charges in Virginia are misdemeanors, there are certain circumstances your charge might be escalated into a felony DUI in Virginia.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL VIRGINIA BLOOD ALCOHOL LIMIT?
If the officer follows all of the procedures required by the statute and you submit to an approved test, you can be convicted of DUI if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is at .08% or higher.
If there is no test but you have consumed enough alcoholic beverages (or drugs) to noticeably affect your manner, disposition, movement, speech, or behavior, you can also be convicted for DUI.
WHAT ARE THE TESTS FOR DRUNK DRIVING IN VIRGINIA?
Field Sobriety Tests
When you are first pulled over, if the officer suspects you of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she may have you perform a field sobriety test to determine whether there is probable cause to believe you are intoxicated. This may include asking you to stand on one leg, walk a straight line, follow a moving object with your eyes, etc.
The officer is required to offer you a preliminary breath test where you breathe into a small device that immediately tells the officer how much alcohol is on your breath. This preliminary breath test can be used by the officer to establish probable cause to arrest you; this test cannot be used by the prosecutor at trial to prove that you were drunk.
You are free to decline these tests and cannot be charged for refusing to do them. However, you can still be arrested and taken into the station where you would have to submit to a breath test.
Once you are arrested and transported to the jail or police station, the officer will ask you to take a breath test. This test can be used to prove that you were driving under the influence and refusing this test can result in additional charges.
If you feel your test has been wrongly administered, or you have incorrect results from them, you do not hesitate to contact Cook Attorneys today. We can help you understand your options and evaluate your chance of success.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR DUI/DWI IN VIRGINIA?
Is dui a felony in VA or a misdemeanor? Can it be both? Because intoxication while operating a motor vehicle or train has such serious potential effects to yourself and others around you, the Virginia DUI penalties are quite high—and they increase as repeated offenses occur.
DUI in Virginia—First offense
BAC is .08%-.14%: Class 1 misdemeanor with a minimum $250 fine.
BAC is .15%-.19%: Class 1 misdemeanor with a minimum $250 fine and a minimum 5-day jail stay.
BAC is .20% or higher: Class 1 misdemeanor with a minimum $250 fine and a minimum 10-day jail stay.
Second offense DUI—less than 5 years from first
BAC of .08% or higher: Class 1 misdemeanor with a minimum $500 fine and a minimum 20-day jail stay (in addition to minimum sentences for alcohol levels, above).
Second offense DUI—5 to 10 years from first
BAC of .08% or higher: Class 1 misdemeanor with a minimum $500 fine and a minimum 10-day jail stay (in addition to minimum sentences for alcohol levels, above).
IS DUI A FELONY IN VA?
According to Virginia DUI law, anyone who has three DUI offenses “committed within a 10-year period shall upon conviction of the third offense be guilty of a Class 6 felony.” To be specific, the below cases are considered felony DUI in Virginia:
Third offense DUI—5 to 10 years from first
BAC of .08% or higher: Class 6 felony with a minimum $1000 fine and a jail stay of at least 90 days (in addition to minimum sentences for alcohol levels, above).
Third offense DUI—less than 5 years from the first
BAC of .08% or higher: Class 6 felony with a minimum $1000 fine and a jail stay of at least 6 months (in addition to minimum sentences for alcohol levels, above).
Fourth offense DUI—less than 10 years from the first
BAC of .08% or higher: Class 6 felony with a minimum $1000 fine and a jail stay of at least 1 year (in addition to minimum sentences for alcohol levels, above).
In some cases, even if it’s your first offense, you may be charged with a felony DUI in Virginia if you have seriously injured or killed someone (involuntary manslaughter) with your vehicle as a result of your driving while intoxicated.
In addition to jail time and a fine, if you are convicted of DUI, you must attend ASAP (Alcohol Safety Action Program) classes and may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your cars.
In addition to criminal penalties, your driver’s license will be suspended or revoked, the DMV will add driving demerit points to your driving record, and your insurance rates will go up.
WHAT HELP IS THERE IF I AM ARRESTED FOR A DUI?
You should call a lawyer immediately if you are arrested for a DUI, especially a felony DUI in Virginia.
Cook Attorneys offers free consultations in criminal defense cases like yours.
We have experienced felony DUI attorneys who can help you navigate the legal system, help you understand your options regarding Virginia DUI laws, and fight for you in court. Don’t hesitate—call us today.
Fill out the form below to request more information about how we can serve you. We look forward to hearing from you!