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What are the penalties for a first offense DUI in Virginia?

The penalties for a first offense DUI in most U.S. states are somewhat standardized. Across the United States, those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can expect to face fines, insurance penalties, probation, community service and jail time.

In Virginia, many penalties are similar to other U.S. states, with some important stipulations tied directly to blood alcohol content (BAC).

Punishment linked to BAC
If you are arrested for a first-offense DUI in Virginia and you submit to a breathalyzer test, the results will determine the legal actions. DUI charges can be broken down into a few categories.

  • If your BAC level is between .02 and .079 and you are under the age of 21, you will be charged with a DUI under Virginia's zero-tolerance law for alcohol consumption by minors. Minors who fall into this category face fines and community service. If you are of legal drinking age and you register in this BAC range, remember that a breathalyzer test is only part of your arrest process, and if officers find that you are too impaired to drive, they can still arrest you for a DUI even though your BAC level is technically below the legal limit for an adult.
  • If your BAC level falls between .08 and .15, jail time is at the discretion of the court, but you will face the standard fines and other requirements of a DUI conviction.
  • A BAC level between .15 and .2 carries a mandatory five day jail sentence as well as fines, court costs, and other penalties.
  • A BAC level greater than .20 carries a mandatory jail sentence of 10 days. If your BAC level is elevated above .15, or if there are other circumstances that aggravate your charge, jail sentences can last up to one year.

Obtaining a restricted license
If you submit to a chemical test and your BAC falls below the .15 margin for a dangerously elevated level, you may be eligible for a restricted license that will allow you to drive under certain circumstances during your mandatory, year-long license suspension period. You must file for a hearing with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in order to be considered for the license. A judge will consider all the circumstances of your arrest, and the approval of this license is based on his or her discretion.

Remember that a first offense DUI in Virginia will also come with fines, court costs and other requirements. Enlisting the services of an experienced DUI attorney can help you navigate the process.