Virginia has a reputation for strict penalties following DUI or DWI convictions. Mandatory minimum jail sentences, mandatory minimum fine amounts, mandatory driver’s license suspension (or privilege to drive in Virginia if you don’t have a Virginia license), completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program, are all written into Virginia law by the General Assembly. One of the required penalties, the installation of the ignition interlock device, will undergo a dramatic change come July 1st.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed HB 279 which was signed into law on March 7, 2012 by Governor McDonnell. Virginia Code Sections 18.270.1 and 18.2-271.1 were amended dealing with the circumstances under which an interlock device is required to be installed once a restricted license is granted by a court following a DUI or DWI conviction. Following are the significant changes made to the interlock requirement:
- Current law: Interlock is mandatory only for DUI or DWI convictions where a person’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level was a 0.15 or higher, or a second or subsequent conviction. The court had the discretion to impose interlock for first offense DUI or DWI convictions less than 0.15 BAC level.
- New law: Interlock is mandatory for a minimum of six months for any DUI or DWI conviction regardless of the person’s BAC.
- Current law: The vehicle or vehicles installed with interlock had to be driven by an authorized user of the vehicles, not the defendant, to the installation service center for the monthly checks.
- New law: The restricted license categories have been expanded to permit driving by the defendant to the installation service center. These monthly visits have a fee of up to $80 for each visit. In addition to the $65 installation fee, a 6 month interlock requirement could cost a defendant $540 per vehicle. Also, there are a variety of companies that provide the ignition interlock device, approved by VASAP; there are material differences between the kinds of interlock devices.
- Current law: The interlock could not be installed without a referral from VASAP with a validly issued restricted license. In fact, the appointment to install the interlock could not even be scheduled until VASAP authorized it. Depending on the company, it could take up to a week or two from the date the judge authorized a restricted license before a defendant can actually begin to use their restricted license.
- New law: A defendant can prequalify for interlock installation once there is a pending DUI or DWI case in a Virginia court if he or she enrolls in VASAP before his or her court date. The interlock device still cannot be installed until a restricted license is issued; however, the prequalification should decrease the wait time between a restricted license being issued and the interlock being installed, so a defendant can begin using his or her restricted license much quicker. Many defendants misunderstand that a judge granting a restricted license does not necessarily mean that it can begin to be used immediately. The new interlock rules virtually guarantee that a defendant will need to make temporary arrangements for driving to work, school or any other permitted use until the interlock can be installed.
With the imposition of these new laws, the standard penalties for a first offense DUI or DWI conviction, even when the person’s BAC is not elevated above a 0.15, have now drastically been altered. As a result, it is imperative that a person, even when charged with what appears to be a standard first offense DUI or DWI, seek representation by a criminal attorney who is familiar with the changes to the law which will occur on July 1, 2012.
The traffic defense lawyers at Livesay & Myers, P.C. represent clients in Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington, Manassas, Woodbridge, Stafford, Fredericksburg and throughout all of Northern Virginia. If you or a loved one have been charged with a DUI, DWI or other traffic offense, contact us to schedule your free consultation with a Virginia criminal defense attorney today.