At Abrenio Law, the first question we usually get about Virginia DUI charges is, “James what will I get? Can I really get a year in jail for my first conviction?” The purpose of this post is to add some clarity to this important question.
Will I have to serve a year in jail for my first Virginia DUI?
To understand Virginia DUI penalties, you should familiarize yourself with Virginia Code Section 18.2-270. In addition to other penalties, the Court is authorized to sentence you to up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine for a first DUI.
However, this is the maximum penalty. The actual jail sentence you might receive depends on the facts of your particular case. No one can guarantee what jail sentence will be imposed if you are convicted. But there are variables to consider:
- Your criminal and traffic record
- Your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at the time of driving
- The driving behavior leading to your arrest
- Property damage or personal injury (if any) that you caused
Don’t freak out, a year is the maximum possible sentence for a DUI first. Keep reading.
As one might expect, the court will look more favorably on a person with a good driving record that caused no property damage or personal injuries due to drunk driving than someone with a prior DUI or who caused an accident.
Now you may be thinking, “that does not answer my question, James…how much time will I get?” The truth is that no one knows. Anyone who guarantees you a specific result is lying. Judges have wide discretion in sentencing DUI defendants. We, as attorneys, can only provide you our best estimate of your case.
What is a “Standard First,” and why does it matter?
To provide guidelines, however, there is the concept of the “standard first” DUI. While you won’t find this in a law book, local Virginia practitioners use this term to mean a person charged with a low BAC, no prior DWI’s, no aggravating factors like an accident, no lengthy criminal/traffic record, an no particularly inappropriate behavior displayed to law enforcement. Such cases usually do not result in meaningful jail time, but there are exceptions.
Generally, a “standard first” DUI conviction results in the following:
- A period of one (1) year probation
- Required completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP)
- Either no active or a minimal active jail sentence
- A suspended driver’s license with the ability to obtained restricted driving privileges with an ignition interlock
- And a suspended jail sentence (usually 30 days) conditioned upon compliance with probation.
Of course, the likelihood of a standard first will also depend on the court that a case is in, the particular judge, the prosecutor handling the case, and the charging officer. Also, there may be unique facts about your case not considered in this article that change the likelihood of a standard first.
You need to be honest with your attorney to get better answers.
Given that, it’s important that you’re upfront and honest about your case. Because facts that you may be embarrassed about or hope just don’t come up may change the entire analysis of your case. It’s better that you’re attorney is prepared for “bad facts,” rather than left in no position to account for them.
So, when should I be worried about substantial jail time?
If you want more context for when Virginia Courts impose jail time, make sure to read our article, “What are some enhanced penalties for aggravated Virginia DUI cases?” In it, you’ll see that Virginia Code Section 18.2-270 provides for mandatory jail time depending on certain variables such as Elevated Blood Alcohol Levels and prior DUIs.
Also, remember, a Virginia DUI conviction also mandates other penalties such as completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program, license suspension and instillation of an ignition interlock.
Still have questions?
Make sure to check out our Virginia DUI Practice Page where we’ve answered many other questions you likely have. James Abrenio is a Fairfax-Based Personal Injury & Criminal Defense attorney who practices throughout Northern Virginia. You can learn more about James Abrenio, some of our Prior Results, and Read Our Reviews. Make sure to contact us at Ph. 703-570-4180 for your Free Consultation.