First Time DUI In Virginia: Prepare For Stricter Penalties

by ValerieC on September 3, 2013


The Commonwealth of Virginia has tightened its laws by enhancing the penalties for drunk driving and placing new demands on drivers convicted for the first time of DUI.

Under legislation that took effect July 1, 2012, first-time DUI offenders must install Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) on all the vehicles that they own and operate. With an IID, also known as a breathalyzer device, drivers must breathe into the device in order for the vehicle to start. If the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is above 0.02 percent, the vehicle will not start.

Results of IID Law

Since 2012, the number of drivers having to install IIDs has jumped 75 percent, according to statistics from the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP). Before the 2012 law took effect, 4,839 drivers convicted of DUI or DWI had IIDs installed. As of June 30, 2013, more than 8,500 drivers had IIDs installed, the VASAP figures show.

Prior to making an IID mandatory, first time DUI offenders were required to install the device only if their BAC level was 0.15 percent or above, or they had more than two DUI convictions. In addition to installing an IID, penalties for first-time DUI convictions also include completing an alcohol safety action program, fines ranging from $250 to $1,000, and jail time, with the number of days depending on the BAC level or if a passenger under 18 was in the vehicle. The penalties also includes a seven-day administrative license suspension after the arrest, and license revocation for one year upon conviction.

Experienced Virginia DUI attorneys such as the Wilson Law Firm are aware of these strict penalties and can assist individuals in building a defense that can lessen the penalties or get them dropped altogether for first time offenders. However, if this is a second or third offense the penalties can be even more harsh and you should have an experienced attorney explain what could happen if you do not follow the court’s instructions.

Alcohol-related Highway Statistics

Virginia government officials are cracking down on drunk driving as the state sees increases in DUI convictions and injuries as a result of alcohol-related crashes. Overall, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recorded, 8,777 alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents in 2012. The breakdown by the Virginia Highway Safety Office of that figure shows that:

1. 5,861 people were injured in alcohol-related crashes, a 7.25 percent increase from 2011, and 8.7 percent of all traffic injuries.

2. 28,719 people were convicted of DUI, a 1.98 percent increase from 2011.

3. Of those convicted of DUI, 77.2 percent were male and 22.8 percent were female.

4. 22,531 people who were tested had a BAC level of .08 or above, a 3.9 percent decrease from 2011.

5. 229 people will killed in alcohol-related crashes, a 6.53 percent decrease from 2011.

State Supporters are Taking Notice

Advocates for tougher drunk driving laws are taking notice of Virginia and commending state government officials for enacting the legislation. Martha Mitchell Meade, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said recently through a news release that Virginia’s IID law “throws the book at all drunk drivers, and most notably first-time offenders, who were caught red-handed while driving over the legal limit and subsequently convicted of drunk driving.”

While much of the focus has primarily been on first-time DUI offenses, new legislation took effect in Virginia on July 1, 2013, that deals with second DUI offenses. The law states that a driver convicted of a second DUI offense faces a sentence of at least one year in prison and a fine of $1,000.

Valerie Stout Cyrus is a freelance writer who frequently researches new DUI regulations and penalties. She has discovered that attorneys like T. Kevin Wilson of the Wilson Law Firm are experienced in the area of DUI law and provide individualized attention to all of their clients in order to build an appropriate defense.

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