Virginia DUI Laws

Virginia’s laws classify a DWI as any driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. This is reduced to 0.02% for drivers under the age of 21.
Written by Michelle Ballestrasse
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Virginia
DWI laws state that any driver over the age of 21 cannot have a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher. Drivers under 21 cannot have a BAC exceeding 0.02%.
Each year, over 10,000 people in the US are killed on the road as a result of drunk driving crashes.
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a dangerous crime and penalties vary by state. Even a first-time offense can cost drivers up to $10,000 in fines and legal fees—and it will most certainly impact your
car insurance
rates, too.
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What is a DUI/DWI?

A DUI refers to driving under the influence while a DWI means driving while intoxicated or impaired. The two are often used interchangeably from state to state, with some states adopting their own unique terminology.
Virginia uses the term DWI in reference to anyone driving with alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two in their system.
The state’s law also defines under the influence as a visible impairment to the point where a driver cannot safely operate a motor vehicle, regardless of their BAC.

DWI in Virginia

In Virginia, it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher for drivers over 21 years of age. The state has a zero-tolerance law pertaining to underage drinking, so the threshold is reduced to 0.02% for drivers under the age of 21.
It is also illegal to operate a vehicle with the following blood concentrations per liter at a minimum:
  • 0.02 milligrams of cocaine
  • 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamine
  • 0.02 milligrams of phencyclidine (PCP)
The car does not have to be in motion, or even running, for the driver to be cited for a DWI. As long as the driver is in a position to exert physical control over the car, and demonstrates via a BAC test or field sobriety test a level of impairment that renders them unable to safely operate a vehicle, they can be cited for a DWI.
Every state has an
implied consent
law stipulating that you consent to be tested if you’re suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If you’re lawfully arrested for a DWI, you must submit to a urine, blood, or breath test. You do not have a right to consult with a lawyer before completing the test.
Key Takeaway The car does not have to be in motion for an intoxicated driver to be charged with a DWI.

Penalties for DWI in Virginia

The penalties outlined below range depending largely on the number of previous DWI convictions the offender has—DWIs stay on a driver’s record and count as prior convictions for ten years. Other factors can include BAC at the time of the violation.
First offense
Penalty
Description
Fine
$250 to $2,500
Jail
Up to 12 months
License suspension
1 year
Ignition interlock device
6-month minimum if requesting a restricted license
SR-22 requirement
Yes
Second offense
Penalty
Description
Fine
$500 to $2,500
Jail
10 days to 12 months
License suspension
3 years
Ignition interlock device
6 months minimum
SR-22 requirement
Yes
Third offense
Penalty
Description
Fine
$1,000 to $2,500
Jail
90 days to 5 years
License suspension
Indefinitely
Ignition interlock device
6 months minimum
SR-22 requirement
Yes
Key Takeaway DWI penalties are more severe if you have prior convictions within the last ten years.
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Does a DWI impact car insurance in Virginia?

Yes, insurance companies take DWIs very seriously and you’ll be classified as an
high-risk driver
.
With a DWI on your record, you can reasonably expect that insurance carriers will charge you significantly higher rates or they may refuse to insure you entirely. That’s where
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Your insurance carrier will also be required to fill out an
SR-22
to prove you have the state-mandated minimum insurance coverage.

Other effects of a DWI

Beyond the conviction penalties and higher insurance rates, DWIs can have some other lasting impacts on your life.
License revocation: After a DWI, you run the risk of having your license revoked if you’re charged with other serious offenses.
Ignition interlock device: All states have some type of ignition interlock program requiring drivers convicted of a DWI to install an interlock device in their vehicle to disable the engine if alcohol is detected on their breath.
Background checks: Your DWI will show up on a background check indefinitely, which can cause issues for future employment.
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