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Is it called DUI or DWI in Virginia?

About 100 miles southwest of Leesburg is where The Daily Progress is published. The newspaper serves Charlottesville and nearby communities. A recent headline in the paper declared "Charlottesville man charged with DWI after sideswiping police car."

The article made us wonder: is it clear in Virginia whether the offense of drunken driving is referred to as DWI or DUI?

The Commonwealth says on its website that "when operating a motor vehicle, boat or watercraft in Virginia, you are legally considered driving or operating under the influence (DUI) if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher." So the offense is driving under the influence, otherwise called DUI.

Of course, people are perfectly within their rights to refer to it as DWI if they're more used to that acronym. For practical purposes, the two abbreviations refer to the same offense.

It should be noted that you can be arrested and charged with DUI even if your BAC is lower than 0.08 percent if a police officer has legitimate reasons for believing your ability to drive is impaired.

If you're in a traffic accident and an officer has probable cause, you can be charged with DUI within 180 minutes (three hours) of the wreck, without a warrant.

We have some of the toughest sanctions on drunk driving in the nation. Anyone who has been arrested for DUI at least once should know that a person arrested on the charge a third time (or more) in a five-year period will not be granted bail while awaiting trial. Few people have better reasons for talking over their legal options with an attorney than a person who is facing a second DUI charge or more.

On a final note, we would like to add that no one was injured in the Charlottesville DUI crash we mentioned at the top of the post.

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Sevila, Saunders, Huddleston & White
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Leesburg, VA 20176

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