What are the Penalties for a First DUI Offense in Virginia?

penalties for first dui offenseDriving under the influence (DUI) is a criminal offense that the state of Virginia takes very seriously.

To show they mean business, Virginia has stiff DUI penalties that first-time violators will suffer.

Remember, an arrest is not a conviction, and you might have defenses to the charge.

Contact an experienced Virginia DUI attorney right away to begin working on your case.

Maximum Penalties

A first-time DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Although misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, they still carry stiff penalties, such as:

  • Up to a year in jail
  • Up to a $2,500 fine

Not everyone will get the maximum penalties, but it is certainly a possibility depending on certain aggravating factors, such as whether anyone was injured in the accident.

Minimum Penalties

There are also minimum punishments that you will face. These cannot be waived by a prosecutor or judge, so you will suffer these if you are convicted:

  • At least a $250 fine
  • License suspension for 12 months ( Code § 18.2-271(A))
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device on your car for 6 months (if you opt for a restricted license)
  • Attendance at an alcohol education class
  • 6 points added to your driving record

These are very stiff penalties and can make it difficult for you to go about your normal life. No one realizes how much they rely on their ability to drive until they have a DUI Virginia first offense charge.

That’s why fighting hard to beat the charges and get your license back is very important.

Fortunately, a judge can grant a restricted driver’s license during your suspension that will let you get to work, school, church, and other approved activities. One of my jobs as your lawyer is to help you get a restricted license so you can get back on the road.

Aggravating Factors

Not every DUI case is the same. For example, your BAC at the time of arrest could result in more severe penalties:

  • For a BAC 0.15 or higher, you face a mandatory 5 days in jail.
  • For a BAC over 0.20, you face a mandatory 10 days in jail

Other aggravating factors include whether you were ticketed for reckless driving, such as going 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. And prosecutors can consider a defendant’s poor demeanor during the arrest to be aggravating for punishment.

Collateral Consequences

Having a criminal record can have negative consequences that go far beyond some time in jail or paying a fine. You can also expect your record to impact:

  • Applying for a job. An employer can ask for a criminal background check.
  • Applying to rent an apartment. Landlords routinely check an applicant’s background and can deny you for a criminal record.
  • Obtaining a professional license. Some professions won’t grant a license depending on your criminal history.

DWI Virginia First Offense Driver’s License Ramifications Under Virginia’s Implied Consent Law

Virginia’s DUI laws are tough. From the moment police place you under arrest and charge you with DUI, you suffer immediate consequences.

License Suspension Under Virginia’s Implied Consent Law

Virginia’s implied consent law is difficult to get around. The law says that any person operating a motor vehicle in Virginia consents to taking a blood or breath test after the police make a DUI arrest. Your consent is “implied” by operating a vehicle in Virginia; you don’t have to give verbal or written consent.

So you have two choices. First, you could take the chemical test offered by the police. Second, you could refuse the test.

If you take the test and your results are below a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC), then you have not violated the state’s per se law (also known as the “legal limit”). The police can still charge you with DUI even if you blow below 0.08%.

However, if the police perform a chemical test and the result reads higher than 0.08% BAC, then the police must suspend your license for at least seven days immediately.

Refusing the test can be a problem as well. The police can demand you to take a chemical test if they placed you under arrest for DUI lawfully. You can refuse to take the test, but if you are found guilty of refusal, the court must suspend your license for one year.

Under Virginia law, the first time you refuse the breathalyzer or another chemical test, you are only guilty of a civil offense. The penalty for refusing a chemical test is a one-year suspension of your driver’s license.

You could go to jail for up to one year if you refuse for a second time. Also, you could lose your license for up to three years if you refuse a test after having previous DUI convictions.

Appealing Administrative Driver’s License Suspension

As you can see, you automatically lose some freedoms even before you go to court. You have the right to appeal a decision to suspend your license, but doing so is difficult. Having a dedicated, professional attorney represent you could be the best way to get your license reinstated, even on a restricted basis.

You have the right to appeal your administrative driver’s license suspension to the court. The court will not review your case in terms of guilt or innocence. Rather, the judge only looks at one narrow issue.

When challenging a pre-trial administrative suspension, the judge is just analyzing whether or not there is probable cause to charge you with the DUI in the first place. For second offense cases, the judge is also looking at whether or not there is probable cause that you have a valid prior offense.

DUI Virginia First Offense Restricted License

You can get your license reinstated after a DUI first offense in Virginia if you meet the legal requirements. Having the assistance of a knowledgeable DUI Virginia first offense lawyer will provide you with necessary guidance to help you through this tough, but temporary, time in your life.

To qualify for a restricted license, you must enter the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program(VASAP). However, you cannot drive until you install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

You are required to use the ignition interlock device for six months, at a minimum. The court can order a longer period of interlock use at sentencing. You cannot get a restricted license if you do not comply with the requirements of the interlock device.

Remember that the license suspension the court orders after a DUI conviction must run consecutively to the 7-day pre-trial administrative suspension.

Experienced Representation When You Need It Most

You might think the world is caving in on you if you face DUI Virginia first offense charges. It is perfectly natural to feel immense stress from a DUI charge.

However, with the help of an attorney dedicated to helping people in this position, you can minimize the impact a DUI charge will have on your life.

Facing DUI Virginia first offense charges does not mean you are automatically guilty. You have the right to contest all the evidence and how the police collected that evidence. You have to prove nothing; it is the Commonwealth that carries the burden of proof.

With a DUI defense lawyer who has a reputation for excellence in and out of court, you can evaluate your case to determine the best way to handle it.

DUI Virginia First Offense Representation

Don’t let DUI charges derail your life. If you have been arrested for DUI for the first time, help is available, but you need to reach out as soon as possible.

Flusche & Fitzgerald, has helped many clients in DUI proceedings.

My office does everything possible to obtain the best result for you given the facts and circumstances of your arrest.

Contact us today, 540-318-5824, to schedule a free consultation.

Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then, I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.

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