I get this question fairly regularly from DUI clients. The short answer is that there is no difference, and that the state of Virginia does not have an offense of "DWI". In some states DWI is a less serious version of DUI, but that is not the case in Virginia.
That being said, there are many levels of severity of DUI in Virginia. For purposes of this post, I will focus only on those which do not involve death or bodily injury to another party. Obviously, these are the most serious types of DUI, but thankfully they are the most rare. That being said, if you are facing such a serious charge, contact us right away. We can help.
Aggravated DUI Charges
Virginia Code 18.2-270 outlines the penalties for DUI. There are two ways that DUI penalties can be elevated.
- Based upon the driver's blood alcohol content, or BAC
- Based upon recidivism, or the number of times that the individual has been convicted previously of DUI
The least severe form of DUI involves a BAC between .08 and .14 for an individual who has not been convicted previously of DUI. There's nothing light about these penalties though; even this offense carries the possibility of:
- Up to a year in jail
- A fine of up to $2,500
- Installation of an ignition interlock on your vehicle
- Enrollment in alcohol counseling
- A one year driver's license revocation
- Court costs
Things just get worse from there. A violation with a BAC between .15 and .19 means a mandatory minimum of 5 days in jail, which the judge cannot suspend. A violation with a BAC over .20 means a 10 day mandatory minimum jail term. Keep in mind, these are the minimums, and judges frequently go well over these amounts.
Repeat DUI Offenses
Where things really get ugly is for repeat offenders. A second DUI within 5 to 10 years carries a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail, while a second DUI within 5 years carries a mandatory minimum of 20 days in jail. These are in addition to any mandatory minimums based upon an elevated BAC.
A third offense DUI is a felony, and carries a 90 day mandatory minimum. The stakes continue to escalate after that, with a fourth or subsequent offense carrying a mandatory one year prison term. Felony DUI will result in at a minimum a three year drivers license suspension with no restricted license, and a minimum of five years before such a driver could apply for an unrestricted license.
Get Defense That You Can Trust!
The bottom line is that the term "DWI" has no meaning in Virginia, but there is a wide range of severity in terms of the types of DUI charges that appear in Virginia courts. If you are charged with a DUI in Virginia, contact our office. We give every case our greatest care and attention. Do not assume that because you were stopped and arrested that the punishments I have talked about are unavoidable. There is much to be done in defending a DUI... let us get started on defending yours!