Virginia laws on misdemeanor versus felony DUI

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2023 | DUI

In Virginia, penalties under conviction of drunk driving are quite severe. For a first offense, and even in some subsequent cases, convictions are handed down as misdemeanor crimes. Many people mistakenly believe this term is synonymous with the phrase “not serious,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, if the court convicts you of DUI charges, certain issues might prompt a mandatory stay in jail for up to 10 days, even for a first offense.

One of the issues that influence the court regarding sentencing for a misdemeanor, first-offense DUI, is blood alcohol content (BAC). If you registered a BAC between .15 and .20, you would undoubtedly go to jail for at least five days. Time spent behind bars increases as BAC increases.

3 is the key number for subsequent DUI offense in Virginia

If a Virginia police officer arrests you for suspected DUI, and the court hands down a conviction three times within 10 years, the court will sentence you for a felony crime for the third offense — not a misdemeanor. Upon conviction of a felony, a person loses certain liberties, such as the right to possess a firearm and the right to vote in a presidential election.

Fines you might have to pay in this type of situation start at $1,000. You might also spend 90 days (about 3 months) in jail. In fact, if the three offenses occurred in a 5-year period as opposed to 10, the minimum mandatory jail sentence is six months, but could be longer.

Virginia DUI laws include seizure of your vehicle

If the court rules that you used your vehicle to commit a felony DUI, the state will confiscate your car. Think of how this might affect your ability to function daily, such as transportation to work or going to the grocery store. In some cases, Virginia law allows an individual to request a “hardship” license, which is a restricted driver’s license, if the court has suspended your license for drunk driving.

It is critical that you understand the DUI charges you are facing in Virginia, especially whether alleged crime is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Either one may have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. As in all criminal investigations, you have a right to the opportunity to refute the charges against you, which most people choose to do by asking an experienced criminal attorney to act on their behalf in court.