Penalties for DWI in Virginia

January 6, 2014 in Articles | MARTIN WREN, P.C. | LEAVE A COMMENT

Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers

Virginia Lawyer Robert Byrne

Virginia Lawyer Robert Byrne

Penalties for DWI in Virginia

Drivers who have been convicted of DWI in Virginia (Driving While Intoxicated, also known as Driving Under the Influence) will likely face a variety of penalties that can have an enormous impact on that driver’s personal and professional life.  Mandatory penalties include license suspension for certain periods of time, monetary fines, and a criminal conviction.  In addition, penalties for DWI in Virginia may also include participation in a program known as ASAP (Alcohol Safety Action Program), installation and use of an interlock ignition system or device, and monetary penalties for restitution.

The severity of penalties for DUI in Virginia generally depend on three separate factors: first, whether the DUI offense is the driver’s first or whether the driver has had prior DUI offenses; second, if this DUI offense is a second or additional DWI offense, the length of time that has separated this offense from the other offenses; and, third, the level of intoxication of the driver.  With that in mind, the following are the penalties those convicted of driving while intoxicated will generally face in Virginia.

License Suspension

Administrative suspension:  Drivers who have been arrested for driving while intoxicated in Virginia shall immediately have their licensed suspended.[i]  First offenders will face a seven-day administrative license suspension while second DWI offenders will face a 60-day administrative suspension.  Offenders who have had three or more DUIs will have their license administratively suspended until the day of the trial for the offense.[ii]

First Offense:  In addition to the administrative suspension, drivers who have been convicted of their first DWI offense will have their license suspended for one year following the date of their judgment.[iii]

Second Offense:  Drivers who receive a second DUI conviction within ten years of their first conviction shall have their driver’s license suspended for three years.[iv]

Subsequent Felony Offenses within Ten Years:  Drivers who have had felony DUI convictions or a third DWI offense within ten years will have their license suspended indefinitely.

Monetary Fines

First offense:  Virginia imposes a mandatory minimum fine of $250 for first time DWI offenders.

Second offense less than 10 years later: Second DUI offenders within ten years of the first will face a mandatory minimum fine of $500.

Third and fourth offense within 10 years: Third and fourth-time DUI offenders within ten years of the first offense will face a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.

Offenses following previous felony offense: DUI offenders who previously received a felony DUI conviction will have to pay a minimum fine of $1,000.  In addition, such offenders will be required to contribute $50 to the Trauma Center Fund.[v]

Criminal Conviction

Misdemeanor Conviction:  first time driving while intoxicated offenders will be found guilty of a Class One misdemeanor.[vi]  Class One misdemeanors in Virginia are punishable by confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a monetary fine of not more than $2,500.  Both jail time and fines can be ordered.[vii]

Felony Offenses:  Drivers who have been convicted of three separate DWI offenses in a ten-year period shall be found guilty of a Class 6 Felony upon the third conviction.  Class 6 felonies in Virginia require a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years (or, depending on the discretion of the sentencer, a period of jail confinement of not more than 12 months), and a monetary fine of not more than $2,500.[viii]

In addition, drivers found guilty of DWI in Virginia will face a Class 6 Felony conviction if that driver has previously been convicted of any of the following offenses:

– the driver has previously been convicted of involuntary manslaughter by driving under the influence;

– involuntary manslaughter through the operation of a watercraft;

– maiming of another due to driving while intoxicated;

– maiming another due to driving a watercraft while intoxicated; or

– a previous felony DUI conviction.  Subsequent felony convictions of DUI following a first DUI felony will require a mandatory minimum jail term of one year and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.

Jail Time

Virginia’s DUI statutes mandate jail time for some drivers who violate the statutes.  Courts have wide discretion on whether to order jail time, and they typically base that decision on the driver’s BAC, the number of previous convictions, and the length of time that separated the current arrest from the previous offenses.

First DUI Offense.  Virginia DUI offenders could potentially face up to twelve months confinement in jail. To the extent any jail time is served, the punishment will grow in severity if the driver’s blood alcohol content was above .15.  Drivers with BAC levels between .15 and .20 will be confined for an additional mandatory minimum period of 5 days, while first-time drivers with BAC levels greater than .20 will be confined for an additional mandatory minimum period of 10 days.

Second DUI Offense.  For drivers arrested for their second Virginia DWI offense within a five year period of their first, the jail period heightens – the driver shall be sentenced for at least 30 days in jail but not more than one year.  Twenty days of jail time shall be the mandatory minimum amount of time for such offenders.[ix]  In addition, there may be additional mandatory jail time imposed based on the driver’s BAC: drivers with BAC between .15 and .20 shall face additional mandatory jail time of 10 days, while drivers with BACs greater than .20 will face additional mandatory minimum jail time of 20 days.[x]

If a driver’s second DWI offense occurs more than five years but less than ten years after the first offense, the driver shall receive a jail sentence of not less than one month, but ten days of confinement will be considered the mandatory minimum amount.[xi]

A second DWI conviction occurring within ten years of the first DUI conviction will add more jail time for the offender.  If a driver’s blood alcohol content is at least .15 but not more than .20, the driver will be confined in jail for a mandatory minimum period of five days.  For a driver with a BAC above .20, the driver shall be confined to jail for an additional mandatory minimum period of ten days.

A third DWI conviction occurring within ten years will be guilty of a class 6 felony, and jail time for such an offense is a mandatory minimum period of 90 days.  If the three offenses occurred within a five-year period of each other, the offender shall spend a minimum of 6 months in jail and pay a minimum fine of $1,000.

Vehicle Impoundment

The vehicles of individuals who have received a DUI conviction and who are caught driving on a suspended license will be subject to impoundment.

Ignition Interlock Device

Drivers convicted of DUI in Virginia will have their driver’s license suspended but may be able to obtain a restricted driver’s license.  When granted, the judge will require the installation of an ignition interlock device, which is a mechanism that connects to a car and measures a driver’s blood alcohol content.  The device prevents the car from starting if the driver’s BAC is above .02 percent.  The device can also be used while the car is in operation and a failed test will trigger the sounding of the car’s horn and flashing the car’s lights.


Driving while intoxicated in Virginia is an offense that has a number of severe consequences.  If you are facing a DUI charge in Virginia, you need to speak with qualified Charlottesville DUI Attorneys as soon as possible to protect your rights.  For information about DUI offenses in and around Charlottesville, Virginia, please contact Robert E. Byrne, Jr. of MartinWren, P.C. at (434) 817-3100, or, if you prefer, by email, at [email protected].

[i] Va. Code § 46.2-391.2.  This article uses the terms “DUI” and “DWI” interchangeably.

[ii] Va. Code § 46.2-391.2(A).

 [iii] Va. Code § 18.2-271(A).

 [iv] Va. Code § 18.2-271(B).

 [v] Va. Code § 18.2-270.01.

 [vi] Va. Code § 18.2-270(A).

 [vii] Va. Code § 18.2-11.

 [viii] Va. Code § 18.2-10.

 [ix] Va. Code § 18.2-270(B)(1).

 [x] Va. Code § 18.2-270(B)(3).

 [xi] Va. Code § 18.2-270(B)(2).

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