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DWI vs DUI VA: Understanding the Differences Between Offenses

DWI vs DUI VA: What Is the Difference?

Both DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) or drunk driving are serious offenses in Virginia and carry similar penalties. It may be difficult to understand how a DUI conviction is different from a DWI conviction. If you are arrested for drunk driving, you should be aware of the charge and what it means.

Often, DUI and DWI in Virginia are interchangeably used when talking about drunk driving. As stated, these offenses have the same punishment. However, they have different definitions and points to prove by a prosecutor to establish guilt.

The process usually begins after the police pull the driver over because of a suspicion of DUI/DWI. Police officers on the field typically use a breathalyzer (breath test), the device that evaluates how much alcohol is in your blood.

DWI in Virginia refers to driving while intoxicated. You can be charged with a Virginia DWI if you drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level higher than 0.08 percent. It does not matter if you appear intoxicated.

DUI in Virginia means you were driving under the influence of alcohol. That is chargeable even if you have a BAC under 0.08 since alcohol impairs your ability to drive the vehicle safely.

These charges are not something that should be taken lightly. You need a reputable and experienced criminal defense attorney like Christopher J. Mutimer of Scrofano Law, experienced in Virginia DWI cases, who can help you reduce your charges or minimize the sentence.

DUI Law in Virginia: Will You Go to Jail?

Your blood alcohol concentration is typically the most important factor in deciding the severity of your penalties, including jail time, for drunk driving charges in Virginia. If you’re found guilty of a first Virginia DUI offense and your BAC is 0.15 to 0.20, you are required to serve five days in jail. If you have a BAC over 0.20, you are required to spend at least ten days in jail. There is no mandatory minimum sentence for a blood alcohol concentration under 0.15.

Those found guilty of a DUI in Virginia courts must complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program or VASAP. If you are convicted, there is no way to get around it, even if you were driving under the influence of prescription medication. While some courts do not mandate VASAP, you will need it to get your license back.

You’ll need to attend a minimum of ten weeks of VASAP classes. Depending on your alcohol consumption or substance abuse history and record, you may be required to participate in therapy or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). There is no tolerance for unreasonable refusal.

Jail time is typically what is on everyone’s mind. People charged with DUI often ask: ‘Am I going to jail, and for how long?’ If you disregard the mandatory jail sentences discussed above due to BAC, you may get additional time in a jail sentence. For example, you could face more time in prison if you’ve caused an auto accident, and even some prosecutors may push for more jail time.


How Can a Lawyer Help?

A Virginia DUI lawyer can help you if you were charged with DUI or DWI in Virginia in several ways. Your attorney can evaluate all the evidence presented against you and argue your case. They may be able to reduce your sentence to a less serious offense or even get it dismissed if there’s not enough proof that you were driving under the influence.

Your attorney can also help you understand all the charges against you and develop a defense strategy to protect your rights. They will explain the legal process, what to expect next, and answer any questions you have regarding your case.

If your BAC was above the point where alcohol consumption impairs safe driving ability, the charges against you are serious and can threaten your driving privileges. In such cases, having professional representation is a must. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help you build a solid defense to get your sentence reduced or even dismissed.

Finding the right attorney is critical. You should research your options and meet with several attorneys before deciding who will best represent you in your case. When meeting an attorney, make sure to discuss the following key points:

  • Fees and Payment Options: How much will you pay for the lawyer’s services? Will you need to make a down payment, or will they work with your budget?
  • Attorney Experience: Does the attorney specialize in DUI/DWI cases? Have they won similar cases in the past?
  • Lawyer Communication: How long do you have to wait for a response? Will the attorney answer all your questions promptly?
  • Attorney Reputation: What do past clients say about their experience with the lawyer? How is their customer service?

These points will help you decide on an attorney and establish an effective attorney-client relationship.

DWI Laws in Virginia

Virginia law Driving While Intoxicated or DWI refers to driving or operating a motor vehicle or a train on a public road while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of those substances. That means a vehicle cannot be operated safely.

Your criminal history may also come into play. You are breaking the law in the Commonwealth of Virginia if any of the following applies to you:

  • Your BAC is 0.08% or higher, and you are at least 21 years of age.

  • Your BAC is 0.02% or higher, and you are under 21 years of age.

  • Your BAC is 0.04%, and you are a commercial driver.

The most common way prosecutors convict for a DUI/DWI in Virginia is to show the person’s blood alcohol content was above 0.08 when a breath test was given. They do this by introducing a BAC Certificate of Analysis that shows the interference of alcohol.


Severities of DWI In Virginia

A first offense DUI or DWI is a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious type of criminal misdemeanor. Because of this, a first offense DUI/DWI carries a mandatory minimum fine of $250 up to $2,500. A conviction of a DUI or DWI with a BAC of 0.15 to 0.20 requires you to serve five days in jail. The second and third offenses could be more dangerous.

This is not subject to the 50% reduction for good time served, so you must serve the full five days, which may or may not impact your ability to keep your employment. Even if it is a first offense and you are convicted of a DUI or DWI in Virginia with a BAC level over 0.20, you will be required to serve ten days.

In some cases, drug charges may accompany DWI charges. If this happens to you, make sure you get help from experienced Virginia defense attorneys. Contact us for knowledgeable legal advice and skillful representation. We are passionate about getting a favorable result in every case we handle.

DUI and DWI Virginia: What Happens With Your License?

As you can probably imagine, fines and jail time are just the beginning for DUI and DWI criminal charges in Virginia. If you are arrested for a DUI charge/DWI charge in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you will also face an administrative driver’s license suspension for seven days. If you are convicted of driving under the influence, you face driver’s license suspension for 12 months.

However, you may be able to get a restricted license if you enroll in alcohol counseling and do VASAP. If your request for a restricted driver’s license is approved, you will be able to drive to and from school, work, do transport for work purposes, medical facilities, counseling, and court programs.

But, there are exceptions. For example, if you refused to take a breath test when a police officer pulled you over, and you are convicted for this offense, you would face an automatic license suspension of 12 months, with no opportunity to get a restricted driver’s license.

DUI Penalties Virginia

In order to be charged with a DWI or a DUI in Virginia, you were probably using a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so much so that you put yourself and others in danger. While the best advice would be not to drive impaired in the first place, the second-best advice would be to find the best lawyer for you. That means finding one that knows Virginia laws so they can tell what consequences will be the most alarming for you and which will impact your future or reputation.


Penalties for First Conviction

As stated, penalties for a first DUI/DWI conviction include a fine of $250 up to $2,500, completion of the VASAP, as well as mandatory jail time in some cases.


Penalties Subsequent Violations

If the second drunk driving conviction happened within five years of a previous offense, the driver would be facing a minimum $500 fine, driver’s license revocation for three years, as well as 20 days to 12 months jail sentence, as well as a mandatory jail time which depends on various circumstances and BAC level. Penalties are even harsher if the driver was transporting a minor.

Without the representation of a great lawyer, you can find yourself facing more jail time, hikes in insurance premiums, losing your motor vehicle, losing your driver’s license, and being mandated to enter into state-sponsored drug and alcohol treatment programs or rehab.

If you are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a qualified DUI lawyer can assist you with your DUI/DWI case as well as a range of traffic violations. You should seek reputable attorneys with a track record of success and vast knowledge of the local court system. Before you do or say anything to a law enforcement officer, make sure you consult with your attorney to find the best defense option in your case.

We Can Help You with a DWI in Virginia

Virginia follows the same operating-while-intoxicated system as most other states. The threshold that begins at legal and ends at intoxicated or impaired depends on your occupation or age.

Even if you have never had the misfortune of being on the wrong side of the law, every legal scenario is different. Judges can deliver a verdict to suit a particular crime like DUI/DWI on a case-by-case basis. However, the Commonwealth of Virginia is pretty stringent regarding drunk driving offenses, so keep that in mind when you get in the driver’s seat drunk – the punishment can be daunting.

Also, know that time is of the essence. The sooner you contact us and schedule a consultation, the better. When you work with Christopher J. Mutimer of Scrofano Law, you can rest assured that you have a passionate and dedicated attorney on your side who will work relentlessly until your case reaches the best possible resolution.


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