DUI charges are incredibly serious matters, especially in a state that’s tough on drinking and driving like Virginia.
But what if it’s only your first offense?
In Virginia, the penalties you should expect after a DUI conviction can change based on a variety of factors.
However, two of the most important are your age and whether or not this is your first offense.
In this article, we’ll break down the penalties for a first offense DUI charge in Virginia.
DUI Penalties for Drivers Over the Age of 21
If you’re over the age of 21, you must have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) lower than 0.08 to legally drive in the Commonwealth.
If you’re pulled over with a BAC higher than 0.08, you’ll most likely receive a criminal charge for driving under the influence.
Penalties for First Offense DUI
In Virginia, DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
This means that, under normal circumstances, you’ll face a maximum penalty of a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 1 year in jail.
A judge might also assign additional penalties, such as:
- Revoking your driver’s license for 1 year.
- Taking classes through the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP).
- A required amount of community service.
- The installation and use of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for at least 6 months, should you choose to petition for a restricted driver’s license.
In addition to this base penalty, there are also a few other things to watch out for if you’re caught with higher BAC levels.
For example, if your BAC is between 0.15 and 0.20 at the time of your arrest, you’ll face a mandatory 5-day stay in jail, in addition to any other penalties the judge may impose.
If your BAC is more than 0.20, this number is bumped up to 10 days.
Driver’s License Issues for a First Offense DUI
As stated above, for a first offense DUI conviction you’ll most likely lose your driving privileges for 1 year.
However, if losing your license will prevent you from working (or cause you some other significant hardship) your lawyer may be able to convince the judge to give you a restricted license.
As the name implies, this is essentially a license which comes with certain rules and restrictions.
For example, it might allow you to drive to and from work, school, or other similar places, but bar you from driving to less critical locations such as the gym or the grocery store.
As another penalty related to your license, DUI convictions will also result in the DMV adding several demerit points to your driver’s license.
First Offense DUI Charges for Underage Drivers
Virginia uses a zero-tolerance law for underage drivers who are caught driving under the influence.
The law specifically states:
“It shall be unlawful for any person under the age 21 to operate any motor vehicle after illegally consuming alcohol. Any such person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent or more…shall be in violation of this section.”Virginia Code § 18.2-266.1
It should be noted that Virginia’s zero-tolerance law only applies to minors with BAC’s under the normal legal limit.
Put another way:
- If an underage driver is pulled over with a BAC of between 0.02 and 0.08, they will face criminal penalties under the zero-tolerance statute.
- If an underage driver is pulled over with a BAC of higher than 0.08, they will face criminal charges under the normal DUI code section (as outlined in the sections above).
Penalties for First Offense Underage DUI in Virginia
The penalties for a violation of Virginia’s zero-tolerance law are far from a slap on the wrist.
In fact, violations of this code section count as Class 1 misdemeanors, though they often result in significantly lower penalties.
In most cases, the minor charged under this code section will face a maximum punishment which could include all of the following:
- The forfeiture of their license for one year from the date of conviction.
- A mandatory fine of $500 or a mandatory minimum of 50 hours of community service.
- An additional administrative license suspension as outlined in § 46.2-391.2.
- Attending VASAP classes.
- The addition of 6 demerit points to their driving record.
Additionally, underage drivers who are charged with DUI might also face any number of additional criminal charges.
For example, underage drinking is itself a crime in Virginia, while intoxicated drivers who are caught with underage children in their cars often face additional punishments.
First Offense DUI Penalties for Commercial Drivers
The standards for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders are stricter than they are for regular drivers.
The legal limit for commercial drivers within the Commonwealth is 0.08, just as it is for all other drivers.
A conviction for commercial DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor and will result in similar penalties as a normal DUI, including:
- A fine of up to $2500
- Incarceration for up to 1 year
- The revocation of their driver’s license for 1 year
A commercial driver who is stopped with a BAC as low as 0.04 can also be cited for a lesser offense.
For a BAC between 0.04 and 0.07, a commercial driver may be found guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor, rather than a Class 1.
There are also a few additional penalties you should look out for as a CDL holder.
For example, as a collateral consequence of your conviction, you might find it hard to find future work as a commercial driver.
Similarly, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will also most likely revoke your CDL for a year as well, regardless of whether the court allows you to have a restricted license or not.
Other DUI Charges to Look Out For
Even if it’s your first offense, there are some situations in which a DUI offense can result in harsher penalties.
A few of the most common include:
- Driving with an Abnormally High BAC — As stated above, the higher the blood alcohol level, the harsher the penalties will be. Generally, this will include mandatory jail time.
- Transporting Children — If you get a DUI while transporting children under 18, you will get additional fines and jail time.
- Causing Injury or Death — If you get a DUI after an accident that causes injury or death, you will face further penalties. Virginia Code § 18.2-51.4 states that maiming someone because of driving under the influence will result in an additional felony charge.
- Breathalyzer Test Refusal — Virginia uses an “implied consent” law, which essentially means that by applying for a driver’s license, you consent to take breathalyzer tests on request. Refusal to do so can result in license suspension or even a misdemeanor charge.
If the accident causes another’s death, the driver could also be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
The penalties for a first offense DUI in Virginia are serious.
Normally, it’s a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to 1 year in jail, as well as several additional penalties.
However, the circumstances can change based on a variety of factors, such as your age and your BAC level at the time of your arrest.
If you are convicted of a DUI, even for a first offense, you should hire a lawyer.
A lawyer will be especially helpful if your DUI happened under more egregious circumstances, such as after an accident, or while transporting children in the car.