Virginia’s Underage DWI Laws and Penalties

The consequences of violating Virginia’s zero-tolerance laws.

Virginia has a “zero-tolerance” policy for underage drivers consuming alcohol. Any driver under 21 years old who’s caught operating or “in actual physical control” of a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02% or more can be convicted of an underage DWI. And, if the driver’s BAC is above .08%, he or she can be convicted of a standard DWI.

Penalties

An underage DWI is a misdemeanor.

Fines. For an underage DWI, the court will normally order a fine of $500 to $2,500. However, the court can order 50 hours of community service in lieu of a fine.

License suspension. An officer who arrests an underage driver who has a BAC of .02% is supposed to immediately seize the driver’s license. The court will keep the driver’s license for seven days on a first offense, for 60 days on a second offense, and until trial for a third offense. If the driver is ultimately convicted of an underage DWI, the Department of Transportation will impose an additional one-year suspension.

Test refusal. A driver who’s lawfully arrested for underage DWI is required by the state’s implied law to submit to a breath or blood test. An unlawful refusal can result in further license suspension, fines, and possible jail.

VASAP

The Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) is available—but not required—for underage impaired drivers. The program requires the driver to complete an alcohol and drug evaluation, And, depending on the results of the evaluation, the driver might have to participate in treatment or take addiction education classes.

Those who participate in the program are eligible for a restricted driver’s license. This license authorizes the holder to drive to and from work, school, and treatment during the suspension period with an ignition interlock device (IID). Participants who opt for the restricted license must keep the IID in their vehicle for at least six months.

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