Virginia is notoriously tough on drunk, drugged, and “buzzed” drivers. If you’re a Virginia resident going through your first DUI case, you’re likely wondering what comes next.
Fortunately, a first offense typically isn’t as bad as a second or third offense—and we’re here to help you navigate it.
Read on for our expert guide on what you can expect after your first DUI in Virginia, from penalties and fines to installing a car breathalyzer.
What is a DUI?
To better understand DUI Virginia—first offense and beyond—it’s helpful to first understand DUIs in general. DUI stands for “driving under the influence,” and it’s a criminal charge in all 50 U.S. states.1What about a DWI vs. DUI in Virginia? DUI is used interchangeably with DWI, or “driving while intoxicated/impaired.”
You’re legally intoxicated if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or above (per a breath or blood test). However, you may still be charged for drunk driving if your BAC is as low as 0.02% (especially with a suspended or restricted license).2
Is a DUI a felony in Virginia? Sometimes. If you’re charged with a DUI in Virginia, you’re subject to prosecution for a misdemeanor, unless it’s your third offense (in which case you’ll be charged with a class 6 felony DUI).
Difference Between a DUI and Driving with a 0.02% BAC
A 0.08% BAC is the federal legal limit to be considered intoxicated. If you’re operating a motor vehicle, boat, or watercraft in Virginia with a BAC of 0.08% or above, you’re considered legally “under the influence,” and will be charged with a DUI if pulled over.
Driving with a blood alcohol level of at least 0.02% is considered driving “buzzed.” You might still be charged if pulled over while legally “buzzed,” and will get a DUI charge if driving while “buzzed” with a restricted or DUI-suspended driver’s license.
Legal Process After a DUI Arrest
After your DUI arrest, you’ll be faced with the following first-time DUI penalties in Virginia2:
- The potential for a misdemeanor on your criminal record (any DUI arrest can be reported to the Central Criminal Records Exchange)
- A mandatory, minimum $250 fine
- Driver’s license revocation for one year
- Required installment of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) (a breathalyzer that prevents your car from starting if you fail to pass a breath test)
- Required enrollment in an Alcohol Safety Action Program
- If you were transporting a minor (someone under 17), a five-day jail term and an additional fine of $500-$1,000
Even if you refuse a breath or blood test when you’re pulled over, your driver’s license will still be revoked for one year. After thirty days, you’ll be able to petition the court for a restricted driver’s license (after your first prior offense DUI only).
You may also be charged with a DUI if there’s an open container of alcohol anywhere in the passenger area of your car (including the glove compartment).
If you’re involved in a car accident and a law enforcement officer has probable cause (even if there’s no concrete evidence you were drinking), you can be charged with a DUI and arrested at any location, without a warrant, within three hours of the crash.
If you’re under 21, a first-time offense DUI for “buzzed” driving (0.02%-0.08% BAC) will result in the revocation of your license for a year, a fine of at least $500, and 50 hours of community service. Otherwise (if your BAC is 0.08% or above), you’ll receive the same penalties as someone of legal age.
According to Virginia DUI laws, if your BAC is between 0.15% and 0.20% at the time of your first offense, you’ll serve a mandatory, minimum five-day jail term. If your blood alcohol level exceeds 0.20% at the time of your first offense, you’ll receive a mandatory, minimum ten-day jail term.
After your arrest and any jail time, you’ll want to search for a DUI attorney who can help you through your case. You may also need to request a bond hearing to determine whether you can post a bond (as well as the amount that must be paid).
Ignition Interlock and SR-22 Insurance
After your first DUI offense in Virginia, you’ll also be required to purchase and install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID), which won’t allow your car to start until you pass a breathalyzer test. You may also need to purchase an SR-22 insurance policy to have your license reinstated.
An SR-22 acts as a certificate of financial responsibility presented to your state. It ensures that your auto insurance policy meets the minimum required liability coverage after:
- A DUI
- Reckless driving incident
- The loss of your license
- Or a car accident that occurred while you were uninsured
Get Past Your First DUI Faster with Smart Start
If you’re handling your first DUI case and need an Ignition Interlock in Virginia, Smart Start makes the process easy. Our sleek, discreetly-sized ignition interlock devices can be quickly installed at one of thousands of convenient service locations, and we also offer 24/7 support.
Plus, our IIDs are affordable and can be paid for with a bi-weekly or monthly payment plan. When you sign up for a plan with auto-pay, you’ll even get $5 off your monthly IID lease.
With a Smart Start ignition interlock device, you’ll have one less thing to worry about, ensuring the road ahead is smooth.
- Cornell Legal Information Institute. Driving under the influence (DUI). https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/driving_under_the_influence_(dui)
- Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Virginia is TOUGH on drunk and drugged drivers. https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/sites/default/files/forms/dmv168.pdf
- CDC. Impaired Driving: Get the Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html#statistics
- Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Virginia Alcohol-Related Motor Vehicle Statistics (Calendar Years 1996-2021). https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/sites/default/files/documents/tss02_0.pdf
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