If you have been arrested for DUI in Virginia, chances are you will be charged with a misdemeanor, not a felony. Even though both are considered criminal charges, a misdemeanor carries a lesser punishment.
A DUI conviction that is classified as a misdemeanor in Virginia may still carry a short jail sentence and fine, but the punishment is far less severe than a felony offense. If your DUI conviction is tried as a felony, you could be facing a state prison term of more than a year, in addition to a fine, license revocation and other consequences.
Every state is different in regards to how DUI convictions are classified. In Virginia, a DUI offense is a misdemeanor unless it is the third offense within ten years. A third DUI offense will be prosecuted as a Class 6 felony. A fourth DUI offense will require mandatory time in jail of one year.
The Commonwealth of Virginia is particularly tough on convicted drunk drivers. The section of the Virginia Code that addresses DUI is over 40 pages in length. Even a first time DUI offense in Virginia can result in jail time, a fine of up to $2,500, a license revocation of one year and mandatory attendance of a DUI educational program provided by the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP). If you are given a sentence enhancement, you could be facing an even worse punishment.
The article, When is DUI a Felony Offense, has more information regarding when DUI is charged as a felony versus a misdemeanor.
Over the last three years, Staunton’s law enforcement has been the most stringent by area authorities, according to statistics. In 2006, Staunton police arrested 121 motorists and in 2007, this number jumped to 183. Last year, there were 174 DUI arrests.
When Officer Lisa Klein, a spokeswoman for the Staunton Police Department, was asked why the number of arrests went down in 2008, she said that she thought the public was getting the message that driving under the influence in Staunton was not going to be tolerated. “I do think people are responding. We’ve been hitting it pretty hard,” said Klein.
According to Klein, there were no directives from top brass to target intoxicated drivers, but the fresh batch of police officers could have had an affect on the number of DUI arrests.
Staunton law enforcement has led the way in DUI arrests with a total of 478 arrests over the past three years. Waynesboro arrested 395 suspected drunk drivers and the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office arrested 195 drivers. Area 17 was placed first in “Operation Checkpoint Strikeforce” two of the last three years.
Miles Bobbit, director of Staunton’s Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) said that DUI referrals to his organization have been increasing by 100 per year. He said that the agency is on track to continue that trend this year.
The financial costs of a DUI arrest are high, which include towing bills, storage fees, court costs and fines, jail costs, lost work days, VASAP expenses and increased insurance fees.