Virginia drunk driving laws

According to the Law of Virginia, they officially use the term “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) instead of “driving under the influence” (DUI). However, there are a lot of people (including attorneys) use DWI and DUI interchangeably to refer to drunk or intoxicated driving.

Virginia’s DWI/DUI laws prohibit all drivers/operators from driving or operating a motor vehicle:

  • while under the effect of alcohol or drugs
  • with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more
  • with a blood concentration of
  1. .1 milligrams per liter or more of methamphetamine
  2. .02 milligrams per liter or more of cocaine, or
  3. .02 milligrams per liter or more of phencyclidine (PCP).

Generally, a person is considered “under the influence” if the substances (alcohol, drugs) consumed damage the person’s ability to drive or operate a vehicle safely. Apart from the driving, boating is also illegal while being drunk or drugged.

Virginia also has “zero tolerance” laws making it illegal for young or underage drivers (under 21 years old) to get behind the wheel with a blood alcohol concentration of .02% or more.

Getting a DWI charge without driving

If you are on a seat and in front of a steering wheel, with keys fit in the ignition, you will be charged with the DWI charge as per the Virginia law. Although the law defines the operating and driving specifically a person, who is in a position to control the car will be charged with the DWI if he/she is drunk or drugged. Virginia court defines DWI when a person is in “actual physical control” of the car, there is no further definition of actual physical control by the court so being in a position to control the car while being drunk will be equal to driving while being intoxicated.

Virginia DWI Penalties

DWI penalties are misdemeanor class 1 charges, but it’s up to the case how severe it is and what are the circumstances of the case. When an individual commits any crime, their criminal record gets thoroughly checked, and sometimes the penalties and sentences are given depending upon your previous criminal record. Misdemeanor class 1 category has maximum 12 months of jail time and $2,500 as maximum fine. When it is about traffic and DWI violations, then six months of restricted license and seven days of driving license suspension will take place.

Class 1 misdemeanor charges are applied when the defendant has committed a crime for the first time, and there is no criminal record of him. If there is any criminal record regarding a traffic violation, reckless driving or DUI/DWI, then the penalties will be more severe. However, if a person is continuously committing the same crime, then there will be felony six charges instead of misdemeanor class 1. Felony 6 will land the person in jail for at least a year and a maximum of 20 years where the fines go up to $2,500. When the defendant commits the DWI for the third time, then there is no time limit for the license suspension.