Is There a Difference Between DUI & DWI in Virginia?
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is illegal to drive under the influence (DUI) or drive while impaired (DWI) as a result of alcohol, drugs, or any combination of substances. Even though Virginia law includes references to DUI and DWI, both offenses feature the same punishments. Any person who commits DUI or DWI will face serious criminal consequences.
What are the Virginia Laws Against DUI/DWI?
Code of Virginia Section 18.2-266 details the laws against DUI/DWI. This section makes it unlawful to operate a motor vehicle, engine, or train:
- With a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more;
- While under the influence of alcohol;
- While impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs;
- While impaired by a combination of alcohol and drugs;
- With certain blood concentrations of specific controlled substances.
The standard for impairment revolves around safe and careful driving. The moment a person loses their ability to drive safely from alcohol or drug consumption, then it qualifies as DUI/DWI under Virginia law.
On a related note, it does not matter if a person has a prescription for a particular drug, narcotic, or other substance. If consumption of lawfully obtained medication leads to impairment — and causes a loss of safe driving capabilities — then it qualifies as DUI/DWI under Virginia law.
How Does Virginia Penalize DUI/DWI?
Code of Virginia Section 18.2-270 outlines the penalties for DUI/DWI. Even though Virginia law has separate entries for DUI and DWI, as noted above, the punishment is the same in both cases.
On the first or second offense, DUI/DWI is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. If convicted of this misdemeanor, DUI/DWI offenders can face a maximum of 12 months in county jail and up to $2,500 in criminal fines.
On the third, fourth, or subsequent offense, DUI/DWI is a Class 6 felony in Virginia. If convicted of this felony, DUI/DWI offenders can face a maximum of five years in prison and up to $2,500 in criminal fines.
Will DUI/DWI Cause Automatic License Suspension?
Code of Virginia Section 18.2-271 provides the rules for driver’s license suspension in cases of DUI/DWI. Any person who commits DUI/DWI will face mandatory suspension or revocation of driving privileges.
That being said, the applicable suspension period fluctuates based on the number of previous DUI/DWI offenses, if any. For example:
- First DUI/DWI Offense — Results in driver’s license suspension for a period of 12 months;
- Second DUI/DWI Offense — Results in driver’s license suspension for a period of 36 months; or
- Third or Subsequent DUI/DWI Offense — Results in permanent revocation of driving privileges.
Let Us Help You Today
If you need legal assistance with DUI/DWI, or other offenses under the Virginia Criminal Code, it can be extremely beneficial to schedule an appointment with a trusted criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP have over 140 years of combined legal experience with a demonstrated focus on criminal defense, including DUI/DWI and a multiple of other offenses. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.