How Does Underage DUI Differ from Regular DUI in Virginia?
In order to ensure safe roadways, the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibits any person from driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. Virginia DUI laws come into play whenever a person loses the ability to drive safely and carefully. This is especially true for underage minors who are under the 21-year-old threshold for alcohol consumption. As a result, Virginia has a more stringent approach for underage DUI than regular DUI.
Underage DUI Laws & Penalties
As outlined in Code of Virginia Section 18.2-266.1, it is unlawful for underage minors to operate a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol. Until drivers reach 21 years old, Virginia provides for a strict limit on blood-alcohol concentration (BAC).
Precisely, Section 18.2-266.1 prohibits underage minors from operating motor vehicles with a BAC between 0.02 and 0.08. If an underage driver registers a BAC of 0.08 or more, then they may face criminal charges for a regular DUI, as detailed in the next section.
In most cases, underage DUI qualifies as a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. The typical punishment for this level of misdemeanor includes 12 months in county jail and $2,500 in criminal fines. For underage drivers, specifically, a violation Section 18.2-266.1 also results in the following penalties:
- 12 months suspension of driving privileges; and
- $500 mandatory minimum fine; or
- 50 hours of community service.
Regular DUI Laws & Penalties
As explained in Code of Virginia Section 18.2-266, it is unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In general terms, Section 18.2-266 requires drivers to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. If the driver is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both — and incapable of driving safely — it qualifies as DUI under Virginia law.
In exact terms, Virginia prohibits any person from operating a vehicle with:
- 01 milligrams or more of phencyclidine per liter of blood;
- 02 milligrams or more of cocaine per liter of blood;
- 1 milligrams or more of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine per liter of blood;
- 1 milligrams or more of methamphetamine per liter of blood; or
- 08 grams or more of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
The penalties for a regular DUI appear in Code of Virginia Section 18.2-270. At a minimum, DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia with the same penalties described previously. But the penalty structure under Section 18.2-270 can change based on the circumstances of the offense. For example:
- First Offense (0.15 to 0.20 BAC) — If a driver registers a BAC between 0.15 and 0.20 on their first DUI offense, they will be subject to mandatory incarceration for five days;
- First Offense (0.20 or more BAC) — If a driver registers a BAC of 0.20 or more on their first DUI offense, they will be subject to mandatory incarceration for 10 days;
- Second Offense (within 10 years) — If a driver commits DUI twice in a 10-year period, they will be subject to mandatory incarceration for 10 days and a minimum fine of $500; and
- Second Offense (within 5 years) — If a driver commits DUI twice in a five-year period, they will be subject to mandatory incarceration for 20 days and a minimum fine of $500.
Reach Out to Us Today for Help
If you have legal questions about driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Virginia, it is wise to speak with a seasoned criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP, servicing Leesburg, Winchester, Fairfax, and Manassas, have vast experience in criminal defense, generally, and DUI offenses, specifically. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.