DWI and DUI in Virginia

Drunk Driving Attorney in Northern Virginia, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William

The state of Virginia is known for having some of the strictest DWI and DUI laws in the country. If you have been charged with DUI, DWI, or Refusal in Northern Virginia, you are likely facing severe penalties. The severity of these penalties varies, but increases for those who have higher BAC levels and for repeat offenders. Robinson Law, PLLC has represented DUI and DWI clients throughout Northern Virginia, and has proven results with former clients.

What’s the Difference between DWI and DUI?

DWI refers to Driving While Intoxicated, in violation of VA Code §18.2-266. DUI refers to Driving Under the Influence (of drugs or alcohol), also in violation of VA Code §18.2-266. Although Virginia recognizes these terms interchangeably, a slight difference exists in the statute.

The difference between DWI and DUI is identified in subsection (i) in the above statute, where the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 percent or higher. This is “DWI” and there are two possible tests the Commonwealth of Virginia may use to determine your BAC: Breath Test or Blood Sample Test. DUI, on the other hand, is the charge given when the defendant takes neither a breath test nor a blood test. DUI is obtained when an individual has consumed enough alcohol (or drugs) to the point of “…observably affect[ing] his manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance or behavior” (VA Code §4.1-100).

In sum, a DWI charge has a scientific component (i.e. the result of your breath or blood test). DUI is the charge given to an individual who appears to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but refuses to submit to the chemical testing of his or her breath/blood.

Breath Test and Blood Sample: Implied Consent Law

PER SE’ DUI

By driving on Virginia’s highways, you have legally consented to the chemical testing of your breath or blood to establish your blood alcohol content (BAC). This is outlined in Virginia’s Implied Consent Law (section A of VA Code §18.2-268.2). Because a driver’s license is a privilege rather than a right, the state of Virginia has the power to mandate any rule pertaining to it. You do not have the option of choosing which test you would like to have administered.

If you are unable to submit to a breath test, you will likely be offered the opportunity to provide a blood sample. If you refuse to submit to either test, you receive a separate, civil violation charge known as “Refusal” in addition to your DUI. The operating vehicle must be on a highway and the breath or blood test must be given within three hours of the time of arrest. Note “highway” in this statute refers to a very broad understanding of the term. Understand the definition of “highway” here.

DWI, 1st Offense

The Commonwealth of Virginia classifies a first DWI offense as a class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, you may face some or all the following penalties:

  • 7 day administrative license suspension (license reinstated 7 days after your arrest date)
  • Court fines ranging from $250 to $2,500
    1 year license suspension (possibly eligible for a restricted license)
  • Possible jail time (mandatory 5 day minimum IF driving with a minor in the car)
  • Possible Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP)
  • Ignition interlock device
  • Criminal record
  • Any court-ordered restitution

DWI, 2nd Offense

The Commonwealth of Virginia classifies a 2nd DWI offense as a class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, you may face some or all of the following penalties:

  • 60 day administrative license suspension (license reinstated 60 days after your arrest date)
  • Court fines ranging from $500 to $2,500
  • Indefinite license revocation (possibly eligible for a restricted license)
  • If within less than 5 years of the 1st offense, a mandatory 1 to 12 month jail sentence
  • If within 10 years of the 1st offense, a mandatory minimum of 10 day jail sentence
  • Possible Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP)
    Ignition interlock device
  • Criminal record
  • Any court-ordered restitution

DWI, 3rd Offense

The Commonwealth of Virginia classifies a 3rd DWI offense as a class 6 FELONY. If convicted, you may face some or all the following penalties:

  • Administrative license suspension until your trial date
  • Felony charge (vehicle is subject to seizure and forfeiture)
  • $1000 minimum fine
    Indefinite license revocation
  • If within 5 years of 2nd offense, minimum 6 month jail sentence
  • If within 10 years of 2nd offense, minimum 3 month jail sentence
  • Possible Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP)
    Ignition interlock device
  • Criminal record
  • Any court-ordered restitution

DWI, 4th Offense

The Commonwealth of Virginia classifies a 4th DWI offense as a class 6 FELONY. If convicted, you may face some of all of the following penalties:

  • Administrative license suspension until your trial date
  • Felony charge (vehicle is subject to seizure and forfeiture)
    $1000 minimum fine
  • Indefinite license revocation
  • Minimum 12 month jail sentence
  • Possible Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP)
  • Ignition interlock device
  • Criminal record
  • Any court-ordered restitution

Elevated Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

In addition to the penalties listed above, if your BAC is .15% or higher, you may be facing the following penalties:

BAC of .15% to .19%

1st offense: additional mandatory, minimum 5 day jail sentence
2nd offense: (if within 10 years of 1st offense) mandatory, minimum additional 10 day jail sentence

BAC of .20% or higher
1st offense: additional mandatory, minimum 10 day jail sentence
2nd offense: (if within 10 years of 1st offense) mandatory, minimum additional 20 day jail sentence plus $500 fine

DWI Under the Age of 21: “Baby DUI”

The Commonwealth of Virginia has a strict zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. You will receive the same harsh punishments as those who are charged at 21 or older. If you are younger than 21 years and your BAC is between .02%-.07% at the time of arrest, you can be charged with DUI. When an underage driver’s BAC is above a .07%, the standard DUI/DWI rules apply.

  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • Court fine up to $2,500
  • Mandatory minimum $500 fine OR minimum 50 hours of community service
  • 12 month license suspension (possibly eligible for a restricted license)
  • Possible Alcohol Action Safety Program (ASAP)
  • Possible ignition interlock device
  • Criminal record (class 1 misdemeanor)
  • Any court-ordered restitution

Refusing the Breath or Blood Test

As stated above, Virginia drivers automatically consent to having their BAC tested in the event of DUI or DWI arrest. If you refuse to submit to either test, you will be charged with the civil violation of Refusal as outlined in Virginia Code 18.2-268.3.

Refusal, 1st Offense

1 year license suspension (NOT eligible for a restricted license)
Non-criminal violation

Refusal, 2nd Offense within 10 Years

Maximum court fine of $1,000
Maximum 6 month jail sentence
3 year license suspension (NOT eligible for a restricted license)
Criminal violation (class 2 misdemeanor)

Refusal, 3rd Offense within 10 Years

Maximum court fine of $2,500
Maximum 1 year jail sentence
3 year license suspension (NOT eligible for a restricted license)
Criminal violation (class 1 misdemeanor)

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3950 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 6
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 542-4008

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Robinson Law, PLLC provides defense to all of Northern Virginia. Areas served include: Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Clifton, Culpeper, Dunn Loring, Fairfax City, Manassas Park, Merrifield, Oakton, Fairfax County, Fairfax City, Fairfax Station, Prince William, Falls Church, Reston, Springfield, Fauquier County, Stafford, Federal Court, Town of Herndon, Frederick, Town of Vienna, Front Royal, Gainesville, Haymarket, King George, Woodbridge, Leesburg, Winchester, Warrenton, Warren, Rappahannock, Manassas, and Loudoun.