Operating a motor vehicle is a common privilege for many individuals. It is so common that some people will drive home after having a few drinks if they feel their driving will not be impaired. However, your blood alcohol content does not need to exceed a particular level in order to be charged for alcohol related driving issues. It is important to also understand the difference between DUI and DWI laws in Virginia.
What Is A DWI & Is It Different From A DUI?
A DWI means driving while intoxicated (or impaired), and a DUI stands for driving under the influence. In Virginia, you can receive a DUI for driving while being affected by alcohol, no matter what your blood alcohol content level is.
However, if your BAC meets or exceeds .08, you may be charged with driving while intoxicated instead. You may receive a DWI charge for driving while impaired, such as when you are too sleepy to properly operate your vehicle.
What Are Some Indicators of DWI?
Officers monitoring the road will pay close attention to the manner in which you operate your vehicle; certain behaviors may that indicate that the driver is operating while intoxicated or impaired.
Inability to maintain proper lane position is an important factor, such as drifting across lanes, weaving, swerving for no apparent reason or straddling a line. Similarly, excessively varied speed and unnecessary or incoherent braking patterns can indicate to an officer that the driver is unfit to drive.
Some actions that indicate DWI are particularly dangerous, such as driving the wrong way on a one-way street or operating a vehicle at night without headlights. However, an officer may use their own discretion to determine if someone is operating a motor vehicle in an impaired manner.
What Are The Penalties For Driving While Intoxicated Or Impaired?
Driving while intoxicated is penalized more heavily in Virginia than in any other state in the U.S. First offenses are not typically dismissed in Virginia as they may be in other states, and you are expected to bear a minimum number of penalties, including the successful completion of the Alcohol Safety Action Program. This program is mandatory and ordered by the court; the state does not pay for your cost to attend and complete the program.
Suspension Of License
Drivers charged with DWI will also have their licenses suspended for 12 months. No driving is permitted during this time or you will risk further, more severe penalties and the potential to permanently lose your license. Depending on the circumstance of your case, an attorney may be able to help you to secure a restricted license.
Potential Jail Time
Your blood alcohol content will determine how stringent some consequences are. A BAC of .15 to .20 requires a mandatory minimum of 5 days in jail, and a BAC greater than .20 requires a mandatory minimum of 10 days. Those who were charged with a DWI while a minor was also in the vehicle face additional consequences, including a mandatory minimum of 5 days in jail and a fine ranging between $500 and $1000.
These are only the minimum required penalties. Depending on the circumstances, you may see additional consequences, such as the need to install an ignition interlock device into your vehicle or up to 6 points on your Virginia driver’s license.
What To Do If You Have Been Charged With A DWI
If you have been charged with a DWI, your first inclination may be to represent yourself in court in order to avoid paying fees to an attorney.
However, offering a convincing argument in the case of a DWI can be particularly challenging, and you may find that the fines and other penalties, such as a suspended license, which can dramatically impact your earning potential, may be more costly than the expense associated with hiring a criminal defense attorney. The most effective choice is to rely on a criminal defense attorney to advocate on your behalf within the legal system to provide the best outcome possible.
Work With Experienced Virginia Traffic Law Attorneys
Anyone who has been charged with a DWI in Virginia will have much to consider, from potential penalties to how to get to work and manage other responsibilities while having a suspended or even restricted driver’s license.
The Law Offices of Kermit A. Monge would be happy to help you develop a strategy to achieve a positive outcome in your case of driving while intoxicated or impaired. Reach out to schedule a consultation with a traffic defense attorney to learn more about the DWI laws in Virginia and to secure the minimum penalties and move on with your life and responsibilities as soon as possible.