Police and prosecutors in Virginia take drunk driving seriously, and generally want to ensure that those who drive under the influence are punished accordingly. Lawmakers also recognize that drunk driving is a serious issue in the commonwealth, and some of them are looking to impose harsher penalties for those who commit certain DUI offenses.
Under current Virginia law, if a motorist is intoxicated and causes an accident that results in significant permanent damage, that motorist will be facing felony drunk driving charges. If the accident resulted in body injuries that were not significant or permanent, then, in general, such a motorist will only be charged with a misdemeanor.
However, a new bill introduced in the General Assembly would change this. Under House Bill 1941, if a motorist is intoxicated and causes an accident that results in significant permanent damage, that motorist will be charged with a Class 4 felony. If the accident resulted in severe body injuries, the motorist would be charged with a Class 6 felony, rather than a misdemeanor offense.
These enhanced penalties could significantly affect the lives of those convicted on these crimes. While no one wants a misdemeanor on their record, having a felony on your criminal record not only means harsher sentences, but it can have a detrimental impact on your life even after you have served your sentence. Landlords, potential employers and others performing a criminal background check will take convictions on felony drunk driving offenses seriously, which could make it difficult to find a job or housing. It is important to keep abreast of any changes in drunk driving laws that would result in harsher penalties for those who commit DUI offenses.