A WalletHub survey shows Virginia has some of the toughest laws in the country for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). The 2017 study places the Old Dominion state 12th for taking the most aggressive stance against drunk driving.
Alcohol-related crashes in 2017 killed 248 people and injured 7,285 others, according to the Virginia Highway Safety Office. Drivers can be charged with DUI if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
Penalties for a first-time conviction
A driver convicted of DUI for the first time in Virginia typically receives a sentence for a Class 1 misdemeanor, which means it will permanently remain on their criminal record. It can bring a fine from $250 to $2,500 and up to a one-year license suspension. If a person has a BAC of 0.15% or higher, a first-time offense can also bring a minimum five-day jail sentence. Those convicted of any DUI offense must also install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle they intend to drive.
Coping with consequences
Despite fines and possible jail time, and especially if a drunk driver kills or injures another person, a DUI charge can be extremely costly. Insurance rates can double or triple, and many insurance companies will drop drivers making it extremely difficult and expensive to find new coverage. Ignition interlock devices also require monthly fees.
What to do if charged with drunk driving
Strict penalties can lead some to believe there is no hope if they are arrested. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney here in Virginia will protect your rights, asking many questions including:
- Were you stopped for a legitimate reason?
- Were you in the driver’s seat?
- Were field sobriety tests correctly done?
- Were you allowed to do an independent BAC test?
- Did you have the chance to talk to a lawyer?
A successful challenge in any drunk driving case, including dismissal or a reduction in charges, can help you keep your license and avoid significant short-term and long-term costs.