Penalties For Drunk Driving (DWI) Under Virginia Law

The penalties for drunk driving (DWI) can vary greatly under Virginia Law depending on a number of factors such at the amount of blood alcohol content (BAC), the number of previous DWI’s a defendant has had, their driving record and whether or not there was an accident. There are, however, several broad guidelines, as well as minimum punishments that apply, which I will share below.  As of July 1st, 2012 all DWI convictions require the Defendant have ignition interlock installed on their vehicles. Ignition interlock is a machine that requires the driver to successfully take a breath test before the car will start.

  • 1st DWI, with a BAC of .14 or less: This crime has no required active jail time. It is not unusual for an individual in this category to get suspended jail time, a small fine and a 12-month loss of license. The judge may even allow the individual a restricted license in order to go to work and other essential travel, but they are not allowed to drive for any social purposes.
  • 1st DWI, with a BAC of .15-.20: If convicted, defendants face a mandatory 5 days in jail. In addition, they will likely receive additional suspended jail time, a fine, and a 12-month loss of license. If a Restricted license is granted, the defendant will typically require approval by the ASAP program.
  • 1st DWI, with a BAC of more than .20: This category requires defendants to serve a mandatory 10 days in jail. A Restricted license is possible, but less likely in these cases, and the restrictions are similar to the above.
  • 2nd DWI within 10 years, with a BAC below .15: Because this is a second offense, defendants face a mandatory 10 days in jail, if convicted, as well as a $500 fine. Additionally, they will receive a 3-year loss of license and be required to complete the ASAP program. A Defendant must wait at least 4 months after being convicted before they can apply for a Restricted license.
  • 2nd DWI within 10 years, with a BAC of .15-.20: If convicted, defendants receive at least 10 days jail time due to it being their second offense, and another 10 days based on the elevated BAC, for a total minimum of 20 days. They will also receive a mandatory $500 fine. They too will receive a 3-year loss of license and be required to complete the ASAP program. A Defendant must wait at least 4 months after being convicted before they can apply for a Restricted license.
  • 2nd DWI within 10 years, with a BAC of .21 or higher: Defendants in this category face a mandatory 10 days in jail based upon it being their second offense and another 20 days based on the elevated BAC, for a total minimum of 30 days. They will also face a mandatory $500 fine. The three year loss of license and its attendant restrictions are similar to the above two categories.

More serious offenses nevertheless track similarly. For a second DWI within 5 years (as opposed to ten), take the mandatory jail time due to it being a second offense, and double it. For example:

  • 2nd DWI within 5 years, with a BAC below .15: 20 days mandatory jail time rather than the ten that 2nd DWI within 10 years, with a BAC below .15 receives. Otherwise the mandatory sentence is the same.

Defendants of third or subsequent DWIs in a 10-year period face a felony conviction. Even more than the misdemeanor punishments, the circumstances involve can cause tremendous variations in the outcomes of the case. Every case is unique, and it’s important to remember that the above has only been provided as a general guide.

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