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DUI Penalties in Virginia

Letsen Law Firm Oct. 3, 2023

Driver holding alcoholic bottle while drivingA DUI can have long-lasting negative effects on your criminal record, employment prospects, and social life, so it is important to understand the possible consequences of a DUI conviction. If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Virginia, call us at Letsen Law Firm, with locations in both Abingdon and Tazewell. We can offer expert guidance, support, and representation throughout the criminal court process and will work to help you get your life back on track.

Driving under the influence is defined as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You cannot legally operate a vehicle if you have a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08% or higher—and, under Virginia’s “zero tolerance” policy for minors, you cannot operate a vehicle with a BAC of .02% or higher if you are under 21. DUIs can be either misdemeanors or felonies depending on the severity of the crime (for example, if the driver injured or killed someone). A DUI can have several consequences, among them the following: 

Jail Time

For a first or second offense (within 10 years) in Virginia, you can expect to spend up to a year in jail. For a third offense, you may be facing 90 days to 5 years in jail—and a third offense within 10 years will be considered a felony. 

If you caused injuries or deaths, your jail time will increase. If you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter, for example, you will face a Class 5 felony charge, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. If you committed an extremely reckless and egregious form of vehicular manslaughter, or “aggravated vehicular manslaughter,” you could spend up to 20 years in prison. 


Most DUI convictions carry fines. A first, second, or third offense can carry a fine of up to $2,500. Felony DUI convictions can ultimately carry up to $100,000 in fines.  

License Suspension

A first DUI offense will result in a license suspension lasting one year. A second conviction will result in a three-year license suspension. Usually, a third conviction will result in the driver having their license indefinitely revoked. 

You can have your license suspended even if you do not plead guilty to a DUI and are never convicted in court. Virginia has “implied consent” laws, meaning that you must submit to a blood and/or breath test when you are arrested for a DUI. Refusal to submit to testing can result in a license suspension of one to three years. 

For a first, second, or third offense, you will also have to keep an Ignition Interlock system in your vehicle for a period of six months. (Ignition Interlock systems require a breath sample before the car can be started, preventing you from driving if your BAC is above the legal limit.) You will also use an Ignition Interlock device if you have applied for and received a restricted license that will allow you to drive to work or school at certain, pre-approved times. 

Community Service/Counseling

If you are a first offender, you may be eligible for alternative sentencing. You may be placed on probation instead of going to prison and might be ordered to attend counseling or perform community service as a condition of that probation. Community service can cover many areas, from roadside cleanup to educational initiatives (for example, talking about the dangers of drunk driving at schools). 

Additional Consequences

Besides the above, DUI convictions can result in many more long-lasting consequences: 

Job Loss 

Going to prison for any length of time might result in being fired from your job. Your job performance might also be affected by court dates and community service, as well as by the overall stress of your situation. Getting work in the future may be difficult. Not only are certain jobs now likely to be closed to you—including any job that requires you to drive a car—but employers are less likely to hire applicants with DUI convictions.  

Insurance Rates Increase 

Having a DUI conviction can make you a “high-risk” driver as far as insurance companies are concerned. This means that you can expect to see your auto insurance rates greatly increase for a few years after your conviction. Your insurance company may even refuse to continue your coverage.  

Civil Penalties

Besides criminal penalties, you can be liable for the damages of anyone who you injure or kill under the influence. The victim or their family can file a civil suit against you. Civil suits are often expensive and lengthy, and you could eventually pay a great deal of money in damages to the victim and/or their family. 

Family/Relationship Damage

Everyone reacts to a DUI in unique ways, and you may find the reactions of your family and friends are detrimental to your mental health. Your friends and family may see you in a new way, not know how to process this, and then either isolate you or treat you differently.  

Fight for Your Rights

If you are facing DUI charges in Virginia, call a criminal defense attorney right away. An attorney can help you to craft the best possible defense and make your case to the court. Don’t go through this process alone—call us at Letsen Law Firm, located in Abingdon and Tazewell, Virginia, and also serving Russell County and the Virginia side of Bristol City.