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DUI/DWI Basics

Virginia is tough on drinking and driving, and the penalties you will face if convicted of a DUI are strict.  Alcohol affects every part of your brain in varying ways at varying times, so the combination of drinking and driving is potentially a deadly one, most definitely a dangerous one.  This is not a mere traffic violation; it is a criminal offense and you will be arrested.  Refusing the Breath Test is not an option; in fact, this is a misdemeanor and will be added to your list of citations.

In Virginia, you will be pulled over if an officer witnesses driving behavior that leads him or her to suspect you are impaired behind the wheel.  Once pulled over, you will be put through a series of sobriety tests and arrested if the officer’s suspicions are confirmed.  You will be subjected to a Breath Test either on the spot, if the equipment is available, or once you arrive at the police station.  You are considered legally drunk if you’re 21 or older and your BAC is 0.08 or higher and 0.02 if your under 21 years old; however, if you were driving impaired then your BAC could be as low as 0.02, for example, and you will still be cited for the offense.  If you are driving impaired and using illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drugs, your BAC could be 0.00 but will still be grounds for a DUI.  If your BAC is between 0.15 and 0.20, there is a mandatory 5-day jail sentence.  If your BAC is over 0.20, the mandatory jail sentence is 10 days.  

The Virginia DMV will immediately suspend your license for 1 week, and your troubles will have just begun.  You will be required to appear at a court hearing where the following fines may apply:

  • The first offense carries a mandatory $250.00 fine and, if convicted, a maximum of 1 year in jail, loss of driving privileges for a maximum of 1 year and a maximum of $2500.00 in additional fines, plus all of the aforementioned consequences if your BAC is above a 0.15.
  • If it is your second DUI offense, your license is automatically suspended for 60 days or until you go to trial, and you will pay a mandatory $500.00 in fines.  Your license will be revoked for 3 years if you are convicted.  You will also spend a mandatory 20-days in jail if the second arrest is within 10 years of your first arrest.
  • A third offense carries a mandatory fine of $1,000 and your license will be revoked indefinitely.  You are now being prosecuted for a Class 6 felony and, if it’s within 10 years of your prior conviction, you are spending a mandatory 90-days in jail.  If it is within 5-years of your prior conviction, a 6-month jail term is mandatory.  A third conviction also mandates the forfeiture of your motor vehicle and other fines, if convicted.


Teenage drivers will face the same consequences as adults if their BAC is 0.08 or above.  All drivers convicted of a Virginia DUI will require mandatory enrollment in VASAP (Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program).

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