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Drunk driving can take a toll on your finances, job, social life, and even mental health. In the US alone, every hour, one person dies from an accident related to drunk driving. Everyday incidents of innocent people killed or injured surface. Tales begin to filter out men and women alike.

The consistent preventive warnings and measures rightfully placed to counter such scenarios? Yet, still, many people, fortunately, meet their fate in the form of a cop, if not a fatality. Let’s find out that what you can do and expect in case you are caught drunk driving.

Drunk Driving Limits

Anybody driving a vehicle, attempting to drive, or is in charge of a vehicle, whether it is on a local street, main expressway, or a public place like a parking lot, will be required by the police to provide three main samples to check if they are under the prescribed limited of alcohol. The average federal limit to legally drive in the United States is a blood alcohol content or BAC of 0.08% or more, and Virginia adheres to the same.

However, drunk driving penalties are a lot like real estate as they vary depending on the state of the convict. Therefore, you need to be aware of your state’s DWI charges before you take the wheel after a single shot because you may not feel the effects of alcohol, but your BAC (Blood alcohol concentration) may exceed your state’s legal limit as everyone’s body, and alcohol tolerance levels differ.

Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests or FSTs, also known as standardized field sobriety tests, are a battery of tests conducted by police officers to examine and determine whether a person is suspected of DWI with alcohol or drugs. FSTs are common actionable tests used in the US to meet the probable cause to arrest based on a DWI charge. The requirements or equivalent necessary to sustain such a charge are convictions made based on a chemical blood alcohol test.

Even though the US jurisdiction says that participation in FSTs is voluntary, all US states have driver licensing laws that state that a licensed driver has given their implied consent to a certified breathalyzer or by a blood sample by their choice, or similar manner of determining blood alcohol concentration hence, making it mandatory for the person to agree to a police officer wanting to conduct any formal evidentiary tests.

Drunk Driving Charges in Virginia

Unlike many states, Virginia has zero-tolerance laws that make it illegal for people under 21 to even get behind the wheels with a BAC of 0.02% or more. In addition to this, Virginian state laws define DWI charges as both drivings and operating a vehicle under the influence or with an unacceptable BAC of drugs or alcohol.

This shows that even if you might not be actually drunk driving a vehicle per se but just operating it or seen behind the wheel, it will be sufficient for conviction. This is also backed up by the Virginia Supreme Court that says that any person operates a vehicle by being in actual physical control of it, and as they haven’t define what exactly those terms mean, a person behind the wheel with keys in ignition will be convicted for DWI.

Virginia DWI Penalties

In Virginia, a DWI conviction can stay on record for up to ten years. The penalties are variably based on the circumstances of the conviction scenario. However, the range of allowable penalties largely depends on how many times a person has been convicted for DWI before. The following table shows how DWI penalties can interchange depending on the first, second, and third prior conviction.

  1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense
Jail Up to 12 months 10 days to 12 months 90 days to 5 years
Fines $250 to $2500 $500 to $2500 $1000 to $2500
License Suspension 1 year 3 years Indefinitely
Ignition Interlock Device (IID) 6 months minimum on the condition of obtaining a restricted license. 6 months minimum 6 months minimum


Repeat DWI Charges Risk Your Rights

Although the first and second DWI convictions are considered misdemeanor offenses, once a third is received, that and any subsequent convictions are then considered felonies. And it is obvious that with a felony, a person establishes a criminal record that may impact their future opportunities for employment, housing, and education. Therefore, once you have been arrested for repeat DWI charges, it is essential to obtain an aggressive defense attorney to begin building a strong defense immediately.

Bottom Line – Protect Your Rights with an Experienced Attorney

Although the key takeaway from this article majorly should be to completely repent from getting behind the wheel drunk. But we hope you understand the drunk driving laws in Virginia all the better.

Located in Oakton, Virginia, Mr. Nicewicz provides criminal defense services to clients throughout northern Virginia. For a free, confidential consultation with Mark Nicewicz, contact the firm today!

Areas of Practice

  • Criminal Law
  • Traffic Violations
  • Reckless Driving
  • Felonies and Misdemeanors

Bar Admissions

  • Virginia, 1985
  • District of Columbia, 1987
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia, 1985
  • U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, 1987
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit, 1985
  • U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims


  • University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, Virginia
    • J.D. - 1985
  • Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • B.A. magna cum laude - 1982
    • Honors: Phi Beta Kappa
    • Major: Economics & Philosophy
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