Virginia has recently made some alterations to the way that it handles DUI charges and convictions in the state, especially for those who are being convicted for the first time. Whether you are currently facing a DUI charge or know someone who is, it’s important for you to understand how these new changes may impact drivers going forward. Here’s what you need to know about the many changes in Virginia DUI law in 2022.
New Changes to DUI Convictions in 2020 and 2022
Before 2020, those who were convicted of a DUI for the first time could face a myriad of potential penalties. Among these were often a temporary license suspension that could last up to a year, which means that they could not drive at all without breaking the law.
In some cases, these penalties were relaxed, and first-time offenders were instead granted a restricted license. This is a unique type of license that generally prohibits someone from driving wherever they want; however, the driver will not get in trouble for commuting to places considered critical to their own welfare. That might include, for example, driving to work, going to pick up a child from school or going to the hospital.
These consequences of a first-time DUI could potentially place a significant burden on someone, and so they were reevaluated in July of 2020.
First-Time DUIs in Virginia: Understanding the Changes
On July 1, 2020, legislation passed that changed the way that first-time DUIs are treated in Virginia. Whereas before a conviction would lead to a license suspension or, at best, the issuing of a limited license that severely restricted opportunities, the new law allows those convicted of a DUI to use an IID instead.
An IID is an ignition interlock device, which is a type of breathalyzer that is attached directly into someone’s vehicle. It connects to the ignition, and so the driver cannot start the vehicle until they complete a breathalyzer that shows they are not under the influence of alcohol.
Similarly, some ignition interlock devices will perform these checks repeatedly while driving, and drivers will need to continue to complete them if they want to keep operating the vehicle. Otherwise, the driver could simply start drinking as soon as they passed their initial breathalyzer examination to start the car.
For first-time DUIs, this opportunity to select an IID instead of a license suspension is an exceptional upgrade that may allow someone to keep their job or pursue new opportunities after a DUI.
The Addition of the Reoffending Option
This change to first-time DUIs was not the only amendment that Virginia has implemented in recent years. After the resounding success of its 2020 change, the state expanded its IID options to all offenders one year later, on July 1, 2021. Now, even those for whom this is not their first DUI could qualify to use an ignition interlock device. In particular, people who were previously ineligible or were denied a restricted license could qualify to continue to drive with an IID rather than have their license canceled entirely.
However, use of an IID is closely regulated. In order to qualify for operating a vehicle with an ignition interlock device, the driver will need to follow specific requirements. These include:
- Having remote alcohol monitoring equipment for a period of time determined by the court
- Not consuming alcohol (as tested by the interlock device, either on startup or continuously)
- Any vehicle that the driver owns must be equipped with an ignition interlock device; this measure was implemented to prevent drivers from subverting compliance with the IID by choosing a different vehicle that doesn’t have one.
Of course, it is entirely up to the driver whether or not they would like to comply with the new changes in Virginia DUI law. As of 2022, both first offenders and repeat offenders may have access to the IID option, but if an individual would like to elect license suspension, restriction or cancellation instead, that is still their prerogative. An attorney can help you to understand all of your options.
Trust the Professionals to Help You Navigate a DUI Charge
Whether you are facing a DUI charge for the first time or you have been convicted and believe that you may now be eligible for an ignition interlock device instead of a license cancellation, be sure to speak with a legal professional who can help. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Kermit A. Monge would be happy to help you understand Virginia DUI law and how you can achieve the best outcome for your situation. Reach out to schedule a consultation to get started.