Driving under the influence is one of the most common traffic violations in the country and a leading cause of automobile-related death. While fatalities have declined by as much as 50 percent since record keeping began in 1982, drunk driving deaths continue to remain prevalent, with approximately 30 fatalities per day or just over one per hour. Despite Virginia’s strict DUI laws, 34% of all traffic deaths were related to the consumption of alcohol. However, recent changes in the law aim to reduce these statistics further to curb DUI-related fatalities.
What Constitutes Driving Under The Influence In Virginia?
In Virginia, operating a vehicle under the influence does not necessarily require that the individual pass a blood alcohol threshold. While a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher automatically qualifies someone for a DUI charge, anyone whose ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired as a result of alcohol can be charged with a DUI even if their blood alcohol content is lower than .08. The most common type of vehicle operation related to a DUI is a car, but boats, water vehicles, motorcycles, and mopeds also apply.
The Legal Shift In 2020 & 2021
In recent years, the laws surrounding driving under the influence have changed for both first time offenders and repeat offenders. Previously, those convicted of driving under the influence in Virginia had their driving privileges suspended by a court; the court could, however, grant restricted driving permission if the individual convicted of the DUI submitted a petition.
This restricted driver’s license allowed an individual to operate a motor vehicle for certain specific purposes, such as traveling to seek medical care or to transport a minor child. However, these laws were amended in 2020, and further additions in 2021 have modified how DUIs are handled by the court.
How The Law Impacts First Offenders
For first offenders, the restricted driver’s license petition to drive in certain protected categories, such as to seek medical care, is no longer necessary. As of April 9, 2020, Governor Northam approved Virginia Senate Bill 439 (SB439), which grants the ability to drive anywhere for any reason, as long as the person charged with the DUI had a blood alcohol content less than .15. However, a certified ignition interlock system must be installed on the vehicle being operated by that individual, and it must remain there for a minimum of 12 consecutive months. During this year-long period, the driver must not be convicted of another alcohol-related offense. The provisions of SB439 shall become effective on July 1, 2021.
In addition to the installation of an ignition interlock device, the system must also be monitored and calibrated at least once every 30 days, and the results of this calibration must be submitted to the Alcohol Safety Action Program. The law has increased the ability of those charged with a DUI to drive anywhere they would like, and in exchange, they must use an ignition interlock device for 12 months instead of the former 6.
Consequences For Repeat DUI Offenders
Repeat offenders will also see new changes to the law. Beginning in July of 2021, those who were previously ineligible for a restricted license, such as those who have already been convicted of at least one DUI, may now receive a restricted license like first offenders do. However, the person must agree with a court order to use a remote alcohol monitoring device and avoid consuming alcohol for the duration of the restricted license. They will also be required to attend an alcohol safety action program to learn skills to navigate responsible alcohol use and receive education on the effects of alcohol.
The bill also introduces the categorization of tampering with the court ordered alcohol monitoring device as a Class 1 misdemeanor. These changes offer greater opportunities to repeat offenders while maintaining safety on the road. However, those who continue to receive DUI charges will no longer be eligible for restricted licenses, even under the new law.
Reach Out To The Professional Virginia DUI Attorneys
If you have been charged with driving under the influence, ensuring that you benefit from these new changes to the law can mean the difference between moving on with your life or losing important aspects, such as your employment. Be sure to work with an experienced Virginia DUI attorney who can represent you in court and help you to secure a restricted license so that you can maintain your responsibilities and lifestyle.
The Law Offices of Kermit A. Monge would be happy to assist you with acquiring a restricted license and ensuring that you comply with all requirements for an ignition interlock device or remote alcohol monitoring system. Reach out online to request a consultation with an experienced Virginia DUI lawyer or call 703.273.5500