- Virginia driving laws differentiate between general traffic infractions and driving-related criminal conduct.morning traffic image by Christopher Martin from Fotolia.com
Virginia distinguishes between simple traffic infractions and more serious driving-related violations that qualify as felonies or misdemeanors. The state's criminal code contains the laws that relate to these more serious offenses. Unlike infractions, with penalties that include fines and demerit points, some driving-related criminal offenses carry the possibility of jail time.
Driving Under the Influence
- Driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher is a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries a minimum fine of $250. If the driver's blood alcohol level is between 0.15 and 0.2, the penalty includes a jail stay of at least five days. A blood alcohol level of higher than 0.2 results in a jail sentence of at least 10 days. Any second offense within a 10-year period also results in a jail sentence of 10 days or longer. A third offense within a 10-year period is a Class 6 felony, with a penalty that includes a minimum jail sentence of 90 days and a minimum fine of $1,000. A first offense also results in the forfeiture of driving privileges for one year, while a second offense results in a three-year forfeiture.
- A driver is guilty of involuntary manslaughter if he kills someone while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In severe cases the charge becomes aggravated involuntary manslaughter, which includes a mandatory prison sentence that ranges from one year to 20 years. The driver also loses his license.
Drinking While Driving
- Regardless of blood alcohol level, Virginia drivers may not operate a motor vehicle while drinking alcohol or while carrying an open container of alcohol in the vehicle's passenger area. A violation of this law is a Class 4 misdemeanor, the penalty for which is a fine of up to $250.
Driving After License Forfeiture
- Driving on a suspended or revoked license is a Class 1 misdemeanor with a penalty that includes a possible jail sentence of up to 12 months and a maximum fine of $2,500. A third offense within a 10-year period is a Class 6 felony, the penalty for which includes a prison term of up to five years.
Ignition Interlock System
- A conviction of driving under the influence may result in a court order for the installation of an ignition interlock system in the driver's vehicle. Tampering with this device or driving another vehicle that does not have the device is a Class 1 misdemeanor.