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How Does Virginia Define & Penalize DUI/DWI?


In Virginia, the terms driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI) can be used interchangeably. Virginia law does not differentiate between DUI or DWI, defining and punishing both in a substantially similar way. To understand the boundaries of this offense, the following sections will explore important definitions and punishments under Virginia law.

Virginia Definition of DUI/DWI

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-266 establishes the definition of DUI/DWI. Under this section, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of or impaired by various substances. For the purposes of DUI/DWI, Virginia law also includes mopeds and scooters in the definition of motor vehicles.

From a general standpoint, any time a driver loses the ability to drive safely from alcohol, drugs, or both, it can qualify as a DUI/DWI under Virginia law.

More specifically, Section 18/2-266 creates several DUI/DWI benchmarks for alcohol or drug consumption. It qualifies as a DUI/DWI if a driver registers:

  • 08 blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of alcohol;
  • 1 milligrams of methamphetamine per liter of blood;
  • 1 milligrams of ecstasy per liter of blood;
  • 02 milligrams of cocaine per liter of blood; or
  • 01 milligrams of PCP per liter of blood.

Virginia Punishment for DUI/DWI

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-270 provides the punishment for DUI/DWI offenses. In most cases, a first or second offense is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Upon conviction for this class of misdemeanor, an offender can face up to 12 months in jail and $2,500 in criminal fines.

That being said, Section 18.2-270 also requires mandatory minimum punishment levels for various DUI/DWI offenses. As a result, the penalty can change based on the circumstances of the underlying offense, as outlined below.

  • First Offense — There is a mandatory minimum fine of $250;
  • First Offense (BAC of 0.15 to 0.20) — There is a mandatory minimum confinement period of five days in jail;
  • First Offense (BAC above 0.20) — There is a mandatory minimum confinement period of 10 days in jail;
  • Second Offense (BAC of 0.15 to 0.20) — There is a mandatory minimum punishment of 10 days in jail and $500 in fines; and
  • Second Offense (BAC above 0.20) — There is a mandatory minimum punishment of 20 days in jail and $500 in fines.

If a person commits a third or subsequent DUI/DWI offense, it becomes a Class 6 felony. Upon conviction for this class of felony, an offender can face up to 60 months in prison and $2,500 in criminal fines. Though as with the first and second offenses. there are certain mandatory minimum levels of punishment that change based on the circumstances of the offense.

Additionally, Code of Virginia Section 18.2-271 requires driver’s license suspension or revocation for DUI/DWI offenses. Upon conviction for a first DUI/DWI offense, there is a suspension period of 12 months. A second or subsequent DUI/DWI conviction results in a revocation period of 36 months.

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

If you have legal questions about DUI/DWI charges in Virginia, it can be highly constructive to reach out to a trusted criminal defense attorney. The Leesburg DUI & DWI attorneys at Simms Showers LLP feature proven credentials in the field of criminal defense, including DUI/DWI. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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Contact the Leesburg, Winchester & Loudoun County Attorneys of Simms Showers LLP today

Simms Showers LLP is conveniently located two blocks from the Loudoun County Courthouse. Our criminal defense firm offers a free phone consultation for criminal or personal injury cases. Se habla español. Call Simms Showers LLP for quality legal counsel today at 703-997-7821 or contact us online.

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