What is the Penalty Structure for DUI Offenses in Virginia?
When a person drives under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs in Virginia, they pose a serious threat to the health and safety of other people. That is why Virginia law features strict laws against and severe penalties for drunk driving.
That being said, Virginia law does not treat all DUI offenses in exactly the same way. The penalties for a DUI offense can change based on numerous factors, including but not limited to number and frequency of the offenses as well as the driver’s level of intoxication.
Virginia Penalties for the First DUI Offense
Code of Virginia Section 18.2-270 outlines the penalties for a person’s first DUI offense. Generally speaking, one DUI offense qualifies as a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. Upon conviction, an offender can face 12 months in county jail and a mandatory minimum fine of $250.
That being said, Section 18.2-270 provides for more severe penalties as well. If a person commits their first DUI with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) between 0.15 and 0.20, there is a mandatory minimum of five days in jail. If a DUI offender registers a BAC above 0.20 in this same situation, the mandatory minimum confinement period increases to 10 days.
Virginia Penalties for a Second DUI Offense
Section 18.2-270 also details the penalties for a person’s second DUI offense. In most cases, a second offense remains a Class 1 misdemeanor. Though the mandatory minimum penalties change based on amount of time between DUI offenses.
For example, if the difference between the first and second DUI offenses is:
- Between 5 and 10 years — Then there is a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail and $500 in criminal fines; and
- Less than 5 years — Then there is a mandatory minimum of 20 days in jail and $500 in criminal fines.
Virginia Penalties for a Third or Subsequent DUI Offense
Under Section 18.2-270, a conviction for a third or subsequent DUI offense results in a Class 6 felony charge. The typical Virginia penalties for this type of felony are one to five years in prison and $2,500 in criminal fines. For a third DUI, however, the offender must be in jail for at least 90 days and pay at least $1,000 in criminal fines.
If a person commits more than three DUIs in a 10-year period, they remain guilty of a Class 6 felony in Virginia. Though the mandatory minimum penalties increase sharply. Upon conviction in this context, the offender faces a minimum of 12 months in jail and $1,000 in criminal fines.
Limitations on Virginia Penalties for DUI
Although Virginia assesses mandatory minimum penalties for various DUI offenses, Section 18.2-270 also imposes certain limitations. Specifically:
- First or Second DUI Offense — Penalties cannot exceed the jail term or criminal fines associated with a Class 1 misdemeanor; and
- Third or Subsequent DUI Offense —Penalties cannot exceed the jail term or criminal fines associated with a Class 6 felony.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you need legal help with a DUI offense or other criminal charges in Virginia, it is wise to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP, servicing Leesburg, Winchester, Fairfax, and Manassas, have spent many years helping clients defend against criminal charges, including various DUI offenses. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.