Written by attorney Brenton Daniel Vincenzes

Virginia Penalties for First DUI / DWI: "Based on BAC Level"

First DUI / DWI in Virginia: Penalties Based on BAC Level

In Virginia, "DUI" and "DWI" are interchangeable terms. For purposes of this guide, we will use either/or. In some states, there is a real difference... but not in the Commonwealth. This guide will help you understand the penalties you could face if charged with a first DWI, depending on Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).

Driving while intoxicated is a criminal offense, and because a first offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, it is punishable by a maximum 12-month jail sentence, a $2,500 fine, or both. That said, the typical punishment for a given case will likely be less severe if it is a first offense and if the accused person's BAC level was not extraordinarily high.

A note about suspended jail time

Suspended jail time is a sentence that does not have to be served unless the convicted person violates the law or some other term or condition set by the court. A typical court ordered program in Virginia is an alcohol safety class, often referred to as "ASAP" or "VASAP." Though jail time may be suspended in some cases in Virginia, there are certain offenses which require a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Mandatory minimum jail sentences must be served on consecutive days (no "weekends only" leniency), and cannot be suspended. The bold headings refer to the BAC level of the driver.

.14 or less

While we cannot tell you what every court system or judge will do in the Commonwealth of Virginia, an example of a relatively typical first offense DUI in Fairfax and with BAC below .15 may lead to:

  • 30 days (suspended jail sentence).
  • Court-ordered alcohol program (ASAP).
  • 1-year loss of license.
  • $600 fine (half is sometimes also "suspended").
  • Ignition interlock for a period of six months.

.15 to .2

As BAC levels increase, judges typically are less lenient (even in the absence of a "mandatory minimum" sentence required by law). For instance, a driver convicted of DWI with a .15 BAC may receive a sentence that includes the consequences listed in the previous section (below .15 BAC), but with the following enhancements:

  • Five days of jail time (note: this is not suspended, it is mandatory)
  • Possible denial of a restricted license for a period of time (see below)

.21 +

Anyone convicted of DUI with a BAC of .21 or more can expect additional mandatory jail time (it will not be suspended). For example:

  • Ten days in jail
  • Additional length of time before the driver can obtain a restricted license

Without a restricted license, the individual will be severely inconvenienced. These individuals will have to rely on other people (or public transit) to travel to and from work, school, and/or other very important places.

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