Just like all other jurisdictions in the United States, it is illegal to operate a motorized vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol in Virginia. Virginia's criminal statute outlines the various penalties of driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. If you are pulled over by a police officer who suspects that you have been drinking or doing drugs, the officer may charge you with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). Most people think that DUIs and DWIs are different offenses, however, they are essentially the same. This article will answer some common questions asked concerning DUIs and DWIs.
Virginia's Laws Concerning DUIs and DWIs
Virginia Code Section 18.2-266 explains, in detail, the various penalties for driving under the influence. The code also details the different legal limits which vary according to substance. The legal limit that most people are aware of is the blood alcohol level (BAC). The blood alcohol limit for driving in Virginia is 0.08. If your blood alcohol level is above 0.08, you may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI), or driving while influenced by alcohol (DWI).
Virginia's code also covers legal limits for drugs. For instance, If you are caught with more than 0.02 milligrams of cocaine in your system while operating a motor vehicle, you can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). If you are caught with more than 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamines or MDMA (ecstasy), you can be charged with a DUI. If you are caught driving with more than 0.01 milligrams of PCP, you can be charged with a DUI. Review our informational page on Virginia DUI and DWI Laws for more information on the specifics of Virginia law.
Frequently Asked Questions About Virginia DUI/DWI Charges
Receiving a DUI/DWI charge can cause stress and confusion. Although every case is different, many individuals charged with a DUI/DWI in Virginia have similar questions. Below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding Virginia DUI/DWI penalties.
Can a Person be Charged With a DUI/DWI if Their BAC is Below 0.08?
Yes. If you are pulled over for drinking and your blood alcohol level is lower than the legal limit of 0.08, you can still be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, if the police officer involved believes that alcohol has impaired your driving after performing an assessment.
Can I get a DUI From Over the Counter Medicines?
Yes, you can get a DUI from over the counter medicines if those medicines impair your ability to operate a motorized vehicle. Over the counter medicines that could impair your driving ability include, but are not limited to, cough syrups and allergy medicines and other medications.
Will I go to Jail for DUI?
The severity of the violation and history of the driver will dictate the punishment that is issued. That being said, it is more unlikely that you will be sent to jail following your first DUI offense, if your blood alcohol level registers below 0.15. If, however, you have several DUI offenses, it will be harder to avoid jail time. Second and third DUI offenses usually result in mandatory jail sentences. It is important to keep in mind that if your blood alcohol level registers over 0.15, you may be sent to jail regardless of not having a prior DUI offense.
Will My License be Taken Away if I get a DUI?
Your license will usually be suspended following a DUI conviction. Virginia law stipulates that DUI convictions lead to the suspension of a person's license. However, there are certain provisions that may allow you to continue to drive under a restricted license. For instance, you may be allowed to drive to work, school, or take your children to school under a restricted license. A restricted license may stipulate that you have an ignition interlock installed in your car. Your license suspension may be extended if you are caught driving under the influence again. After three DUI convictions, you may lose your license permanently. If you are interested in learning more about license suspension and revocations, please review our informational page on Virginia's ignition interlock system.
What is the Purpose of an Ignition Interlock Device?
An ignition interlock device is a safety device that can be installed in your motorized vehicle. This device will only allow your car to start after your blood alcohol level is measured. If your blood alcohol level registers above 0.02, your vehicle will not start, which means that you will not be able to drive your car.
Are Ignition Interlock Devices Mandatory?
Ignition interlock devices may be assigned in accordance with a restricted license, especially if you have work, school or family obligations that require you to drive. If you have multiple DUI offenses an ignition interlock device may automatically be required. Keep in mind, however, that you are responsible for paying for the ignition interlock device, not the court.
Could my Commercial Driver's License be Revoked Following a DUI Conviction?
It is possible that your commercial driver's license will be temporarily revoked following a DUI conviction. Your commercial driver's license may be temporarily revoked even if you were driving under the influence in your personal vehicle. Multiple DUI offenses will result in permanently losing your commercial driver's license (CDL).
How Will I get to Work Following a DUI Conviction?
After you have been convicted of DUI, you will be required to request a restricted license in order to continue driving yourself to work. Keep in mind that the more DUI convictions you have, the more difficult it will be to convince a judge to allow you to drive even with a restricted license. It could take several months to receive a restricted license.
How can I get My License Back?
A DUI could result in your license being suspended for at least a year. After the suspension period has run out, you can then apply for a restricted license. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will have all of the necessary documents that you must fill out in order to request a restricted license. You will also be required to pay a fee and provide proof that you have insurance. Your license revocation will require you to obtain a completely new license, which means that you will be required to pass the driver's test all over again.
What is SR-22 Insurance?
SR-22 insurance is special high risk insurance for people that have been convicted of a DUI. Most states require persons convicted of a DUI to purchase SR-22 insurance on their vehicles. If you live in Virginia, persons convicted of a DUI are required to purchase FR-44 insurance.
DUI and Security Clearance
Employers and potential employers are not always fond of employees with DUI and DWI records. If you are working or applying to work for a company that requires a security clearance, a DUI or DWI could harm your chances of finding employment. A history of DUI can signal alcohol abuse issues, which may lead an employer to believe that you will not be a reliable employee.
Always Work With A Legal Professional
There are certain defenses that may help you avoid a DUI or DWI conviction. If you are interested in learning more about legal defenses, a legal professional from our firm will be more than happy to discuss your options. These options may also help protect your individual rights. If you would like to know more, please contact our law firm directly by phone or online to discuss the specific facts of your case.