Virginia DWI Laws and Penalties

How Virginia defines “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) and the consequences of a conviction.

By , Attorney University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated 4/06/2021

In Virginia, a motorist can get a DWI (also sometimes called "DUI") for driving or operating a motor vehicle:

  • while "under the influence" (impaired) of drugs or alcohol
  • with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, or
  • with a certain blood concentration of cocaine, methamphetamine, or phencyclidine (PCP) in the body.

Virginia also has a "zero-tolerance" law that prohibits underage age motorists (those under 21 years old) from driving with a BAC of .02% or more.

Jail Time and Fines for Virginia DWI Convictions

The minimum and maximum jail time and fines you'll face for a DWI conviction in Virginia primarily depend on how many prior convictions you have. Here are the possible jail sentences and fines for a first, second, and third DWI conviction.

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

Jail Time

1 year maximum

10 days to 1 year

90 days to 5 years


$250 to $2,500

$500 to $2,500

$1,000 to $2,500

In Virginia, a DWI conviction will stay on your record and count as a prior conviction for ten years.

License Suspensions for a Virginia DWI

All Virginia drivers who are convicted of a DWI face license suspension. The possible suspension periods for a first, second, and third DWI are as follows.

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

Suspension Period

1 year

3 years


Ignition Interlock

6 months


6 months


6 months


However, most offenders will be eligible for a "restricted license" for driving to and from places like work and school during at least part of the suspension. Offenders will also likely be subject to ignition interlock restricted licenses upon license reinstatement.

Virginia's Implied Consent Laws

Virginia has "implied consent" laws that basically say all motorists agree to take a blood or breath test if lawfully arrested for driving while intoxicated. Motorists who refuse testing generally face license suspension of one to three years, depending on their record.

Reducing a Virginia DWI Charge

If you're charged with driving while intoxicated in Virginia, it's possible to "plea bargain" for a lesser charge. "Wet reckless" refers to a plea deal where a DWI is reduced to reckless driving charge.

In Virginia, a motorist who's convicted of a wet reckless—alcohol or drug-related reckless driving charge—faces up to six months in jail, a maximum $1,000 fine, and, possibly, having to complete an "alcohol safety program."

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