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Driving drunk in Virginia

Driving drunk in Virginia can have serious consequences, regardless of how many prior offenses you have. However, penalties will vary based on the circumstances of your case. It is helpful to know what a DUI is and what you may be facing if you are charged with one.

If you are operating a motor vehicle, boat or watercraft with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher, you are legally driving or operating under the influence. However, someone with a blood alcohol content under .08 is not necessarily in the clear. If law enforcement finds that your ability to operate a vehicle is impaired, any amount of alcohol or drug in your system could mean trouble.

Once you are stopped by police, you may be asked to take a breath test. If you refuse, you can be convicted of a breath test refusal, which means that the court may suspend your license for one year. If you have had a prior DUI conviction or prior breath test refusal conviction, you will be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor and a three year license suspension.

As for the DUI charges themselves, the penalty you face will depend on your blood alcohol content and the number of prior offenses in your criminal history. First time offenders will receive a mandatory minimum fine of $250 and driver's license revocation for one year. Drivers with three DUI offenses within a 10-year period can lead to an indefinite license revocation and a minimum fine of $1,000. A third DUI offense within five years also means a minimum six-month jail sentence. As for BAC levels, a BAC level of above .15 percent but below .20 percent at the time of arrest carries a minimum of five days in jail and all other penalties for first time offenders.

A DUI conviction also means that you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, even if it is your first offense. You must also report to an Alcohol Safety Action Program where you may be assigned to an education program or treatment. With so many possible penalties, the best case scenario would be to defend against your DUI charges and have them dismissed altogether.

Source: DMV, "Virginia is Tough on Drunk and Drugged drivers," accessed on Jan. 12, 2016

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