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Understanding Virginia’s drugged driving laws

Most people are familiar with drunk driving laws. However, drugged driving receives a lot less attention. It is important for people from all backgrounds to recognize that driving while under the influence of prescription medications or illegal substances is a serious offense. 

People arrested for driving while intoxicated need to seek legal help right away. During this time, it will be beneficial to understand the nuances of the law and what could happen if a conviction occurs. 

“Per se” laws

Virginia, as well as many other states, have drugged driving “per se” laws. These laws make it illegal for people to operate vehicles while under the influence of any drug. A majority of these states have a zero tolerance policy. However, Virginia allows a certain amount, but it is exceptionally low. For example, Virginia law states anyone operating a vehicle while having at least 0.02 milligrams of cocaine for each liter of blood is driving under the influence. Additional drugs that fall within this law’s scope include:

  • Methamphetamine
  • LSD
  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Valium
  • Antidepressants

As of this writing, medical marijuana is still illegal for most purposes in Virginia, and as such, it falls into the same category as all the above-mentioned drugs.

Penalties

The penalties people face for driving while intoxicated depend on which offense it is. For a first offense, there is a minimum of a $250 fine with no mandatory jail time. However, jail could still be on the table depending on blood content levels. A second offense comes with one month imprisonment, entailing at least 10 mandatory days, and a minimum of a $500 fine. The penalties become more severe with each subsequent offense.

People who drive while under the influence of drugs will also have lose their licenses. For a first offense, license suspension lasts for one year. For a second offense and onward, the license suspension lasts for a minimum of three years. This can negatively impact an offender’s ability to get to work and thus pay bills.

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