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Big Time Penalties for Drunk Driving in Virginia

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Big Time Penalties for Drunk Driving in Virginia

Nancy Camaur
May 12, 2006


Effective July 1, 2004, drunken driving (“DUI”) penalties in the Commonwealth of Virginia were increased significantly. The changes include (1) lowering the blood-alcohol level for mandatory jail time; (2) permitting the state to seize vehicles owned and operated by those convicted of a third or subsequent felony DUI within 10 years, and (3) increasing penalties for refusal of a blood alcohol level test (“BAC”) if the offender has a prior DUI or refusal within 10 years.

In addition, mandatory minimums for second time DUI offenders were increased under the new laws; and drivers with restricted licenses can now be convicted for driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent or more. A blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent warrants a DUI conviction. Under the new legislation, the sentence for a first time drunk driving conviction is a maximum twelve month jail sentence depending on the convicted person’s blood alcohol level. In addition there is a minimum fine of $250.00 and a twelve month license suspension. An ignition interlock is required for at least six months during a restricted driver’s license period if the individual’s BAC equals or exceeds .15 percent. Also, the individual must attend an Alcohol Safety Action Program (“ASAP”) unless the Court concludes it is not appropriate.

Penalties increase when an individual is convicted of additional DUI’s. A third DUI conviction within a 5-year period is a Class Six, felony, with a minimum mandatory jail confinement of six months. Furthermore, in the case of Minnesota Life Insurance Co. v. Scott; heard in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, on August 9, 2004 the insurance company was not required to pay accidental death benefits to beneficiaries of an insured who died in a single-car accident while driving under the influence of alcohol. The Court decided that the insured's death was not "accidental" under the terms of the policy, as it occurred while he was participating in the crime of DUI.

For further elaborations on penalties for DUI convictions see Virginia Code Sections 18.2-270, 18.2-270.1, 18.2-271.1 and 46.2-391, as amended.


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