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Higher BAC levels lead to harsher first-offense DWI penalties

On Behalf of | Aug 3, 2023 | DWI |

Being charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Virginia is by no means a good thing. Even for your first offense, you’ll face fines and jail time if you’re convicted in court, not to mention the loss of your driving privileges.

Could it get any worse?

The penalties for a first-offense DWI can worsen if your blood alcohol content (BAC) level during a traffic stop test exceeds certain points. What are these additional penalties, and at which BAC levels do they trigger?

First DWI offense, BAC .08%

For an officer to charge you with DWI, your BAC must be at least .08%. If you’re convicted, you face a Class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to a year in jail – but there’s no mandatory minimum prison period. Your driver’s license will also be suspended for 12 months, and six points will be assessed to your license toward another suspension. And depending on the court’s discretion, you may also need to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle.

First DWI offense, BAC between .15% and .20%

If your BAC hovers between .15% and .20% during a traffic stop test, a DWI conviction will result in the same penalties as before – except you now have a mandatory minimum prison period of five days. This means that even if you convince the court to lower your sentence, you must serve at least five days in jail.

First DWI offense, BAC above .20%

Having a BAC above .20% means that if you’re convicted of DWI, you must serve a mandatory minimum prison period of 10 days. This is on top of all the penalties you face for a first offense.

In short, the more drunk you are when pulled over by an officer, the longer the minimum prison sentence you must serve following a first-offense conviction. This might not seem like much when the maximum sentence is still a year, but if you’re defending your case in court, you must keep it in mind when pleading for lower penalties.