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What counts as felony DUI — and what are the consequences?

For decades, states across the nation have been trying to figure out the best way to handle intoxicated driving. As a result, Virginia and most other states have passed laws making DUI a felony in certain situations, but what’s considered a felony varies. In Virginia, there are essentially four situations in which a DUI-related offense could be charged as a felony:

  • You’re accused of DUI and have two or more previous DUI convictions, or any felony DUI conviction, within the past 10 years.
  • You’re accused of driving on a DUI-suspended license and you have two or more previous convictions of driving on a DUI-suspended license within the past 10 years.
  • You’re accused of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in a manner that demonstrated a reckless disregard for human life and you caused serious bodily injury resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment to another person.
  • You’re accused of unintentionally causing the death of another person as a result of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

For now, let’s focus on the first two situations — where the DUI didn’t involve an accident causing serious injuries or death.

If you are convicted of a third DUI within 10 years — and those convictions don’t have to be from Virginia — the base penalties include:

  • Mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days in jail, but if the convictions were all within 5 years, the mandatory minimum sentence of 6 months in jail.
  • Mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.
  • Indefinite driver’s license revocation.
  • Forfeiture of your vehicle.

On top of those, you penalties can be even tougher depending on your age, whether there was a child in the car, your level of intoxication and other factors. A variety of court fees and other mandatory costs may also apply.

Interestingly, a Virginia conviction on felony charge of driving on a DUI-suspended license has even more serious penalties, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. A third conviction within 10 years is a Class 6 felony and could result in:

  • A mandatory minimum sentence of 1-5 years in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.

The truth is, whether it’s charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, each DUI conviction increases the penalties for any subsequent ones, so it’s never a good idea to try to handle a DUI arrest on your own. 

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