Virginia has some of the strictest drunk driving laws in the country, and even motorists who are convicted of DUI for the first time can spend time behind bars. Most drivers in Virginia who are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are charged with misdemeanors, but repeat offenders and motorists who cause accidents that result in serious injury or death can face felony charges that carry mandatory jail time.
Felony DUI charges in Virginia
A third DUI offense within a 10-year period will lead to a Class 6 felony charge in Virginia. This is Virginia’s lowest level of felony charge, but it can still carry harsh penalties. A Class 6 felony is punishable by between 90 days and five years in jail and a fine of between $1,000 and $2,500, and the mandatory minimum custodial sentence is increased to six months for offenders who are convicted of drunk driving for the third time in five years. The minimum jail sentence handed down to drivers convicted of DUI for the fourth time in 10 years is six months.
Other DUI-related felony charges
Drivers in Virginia can face felony charges after a drunk driving arrest even if they have never been in trouble with the law before if they cause serious accidents. An accident that causes serious injuries will lead to a DUI maiming charge, and a crash that results in death will lead to an aggravated or involuntary manslaughter charge. DUI maiming is punishable by between one and five years in jail and a fine of between $1,000 and $2,500, and an aggravated or involuntary manslaughter conviction carries a custodial sentence of between one and 20 years.
Avoiding DUI charges
Drunk driving is a serious offense in Virginia, but most motorists who are arrested for DUI face misdemeanor rather than felony charges. However, felonies are charged when drunk drivers have multiple prior offenses or cause accidents that seriously injure or kill other road users.