Drunk driving laws are enforced strictly in Virginia. Motorists are considered too impaired to operate a motor vehicle safely when they have blood alcohol concentrations of .08 or higher, but DUI charges can also be filed against drivers with no alcohol in their systems if they are under the influence of illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter medications. Virginia’s implied consent law requires drivers to provide law enforcement with breath, blood or urine samples when reasonably asked to do so. Refusing such a request will result in a mandatory driver’s license suspension and a possible misdemeanor charge.
The consequences of a DUI conviction can be severe in Virginia. Drivers who get behind the wheel with BACS well in excess of the legal limit and repeat offenders face the harshest penalties. A first-time offender with a BAC of between .08 and .14 could be sent to jail for up to 12 months, and drivers with BACs of .15 or higher face mandatory jail time.
Other DUI penalties
In addition to handing down a custodial sentence, judges in Virginia can order drunk driving offenders to pay fines of up to $2,500 and suspend their driver’s licenses for up to three years. Participation in an Alcohol Safety Action Program is also required, and DUI offenders may also be ordered to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.
Drunk driving defenses
Not all drunk driving arrests lead to convictions. When their clients were pulled over for no reason or police used poorly maintained equipment to conduct breath tests, experienced criminal defense attorneys could argue that DUI charges should be dropped. Attorneys may choose to mount an affirmative DUI defense if their clients consumed an intoxicating substance unknowingly or violated drunk driving laws to prevent a greater harm, or they could opt to pursue sentencing concessions at the negotiating table if prosecutors appear to have a solid case.