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Virginia DUI Laws

When operating a motor vehicle, boat or watercraft in Virginia, you are legally considered driving or operating under the influence (DUI) if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher. You may be considered under the influence with a lower BAC if your ability to operate a motor vehicle, boat or water craft is impaired. If your driving is affected because you are under the influence of any drug, you may face the same penalties as driving under the influence of alcohol.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Here's how the law works. In Virginia, there are two ways a driver can be in violation of are the DUI laws.

1) DUI Per Se: You are driving and your chemical test (blood, breath, or urine) result is 0.08% (BAC) or higher;
2) DUI: You are driving and an officer determines you are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Typically, a police officer will pull you over and put you through a series of field sobriety tests (FSTs) to determine if you are actually impaired. Under the first scenario, the prosecutor will need to show that you drove your car when your capacity to drive was seriously diminished by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two. You don’t have to have a BAC of .08 or higher to be in violation of this law.

Under the second scenario, the prosecutor only needs to prove your BAC was at .08 or more in order to convict you.

Legal Limit

A measurement of your BAC is the most common way a police officer can determine whether you're legally impaired.

  • 21 or Older: 0.08 percent
  • Commercial drivers: 0.04 percent
  • Under 21: 0.02 percent

Under 21-Years-Old

Persons under age 21, who drive while under the influence of drugs or with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, are subject to the same penalties as persons age 21 or older. If you have a BAC of .02-.07, then you will receive the Under 21 DUI/Zero Tolerance penalties.

Typical DUI Sentence for First Conviction

A typical sentence for a first-time DUI is a Class 1 Misdemeanor -- which means it will be permanently reflected on your criminal record if you are convicted. As a misdemeanor charge, a DUI carries a $250 to $2,500 fine and up to a one-year license suspension. In addition, if you were arrested with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, your sentence may also include a minimum five-day jail sentence. a fine range between $250 and $400 and a possible jail sentence of up to 30 days. Additionally, you will lose your driving privileges for one (1) year.

Ignition Interlock Device

If you've been convicted of any DUI-related offense, you are now required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on any vehicle you own or intend to drive. You will be required to do this regardless of you BAC level or other factors.

Remember, the higher your BAC, the more severe your penalties may be. Multiple convictions will also result in harsher sentences.

Here is a brief overview of Virginia's DUI laws. For more information see After a DUI, DUI Expungement, and DUI and Insurance.

Code Sections Virginia Code §18.2-266
BAC Limit

Over 21: 0.08 percent or higher, Under 21: 0.02 percent, Commercial drivers : 0.04 percent or higher

What is Prohibited?

DUI: Operating a motor vehicle while visibly impaired by alcohol or drugs or have a BAC of 0.08 percent or more.

Typical DUI Penalties

 

  • Fines, fees and surcharges
  • License suspension
  • Ignition interlock device
  • Jail time
  • Community service

Common Symptoms of Alcohol/Drug Impairment

  • Flushed face
  • Red, watery, glassy and/or bloodshot eyes
  • Odor of alcohol on breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Fumbling with wallet trying to get license
  • Failure to comprehend the officer’s questions
  • Staggering when exiting vehicle
  • Swaying/instability on feet
  • Leaning on car for support
  • Combative, argumentative, jovial, or other “inappropriate” attitude
  • Soiled, rumpled, disorderly clothing
  • Stumbling while walking
  • Disorientation as to time and place
  • Inability to follow directions
Enhanced Penalties
  • A child was in the car at the time
  • The driver had a commercial license and at the time was driving a commercial vehicle
  • The defendant refused to submit to a blood or breath test
  • There was property damage or injury
  • The defendant was under 21 (“zero tolerance” laws commonly require a much lower blood-alcohol level, and impose longer license suspensions).
 

It's best to never drink or use drugs and drive. Select a designated driver ahead of time, who will stay sober. If you're impaired and don't have a designated driver, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation. If you do find yourself facing an DUI, you may wish to contact a DUI attorney for assistance.

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