What Is a Felony DWI in Virginia?

Aggravating factors that can make a drunk driving charge a felony.

Under Virginia law, you can be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) for operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, while under the influence of (impaired by) drugs or alcohol, or with a certain amount of specified controlled substances in your system. Most DWI convictions are misdemeanors. However, in certain circumstances, a DWI can be charged as a felony.

Here are some of the circumstances that can result in felony DWI charges in Virginia.

Third or Subsequent DWI Conviction Is a Felony

Typically, a first or second DWI is a misdemeanor in Virginia. But a third or subsequent DWI conviction within ten years can be charged as a felony.

A third DWI is a class 6 felony and carries one to five years in prison (though a judge can opt to order a shorter jail sentence of at least 90 days instead) and up to $2,500 in fines.

Once a driver has been convicted of a felony DWI, all subsequent offenses will also be class 6 felonies. And, with fourth or subsequent DWI, the mandatory minimum is one year in jail (the judge doesn't have the option to impose a lesser sentence).

Felony Charges for DWIs Involving Injuries and Deaths

A DWI involving serious injury to another person is a class 6 or class 4 felony. Offenders convicted of a class 6 felony face one to five years in prison and up to $2,500 in fines. A class 4 felony carries two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Causing the death of another person while driving under the influence is considered "vehicular manslaughter," a class 5 felony. A conviction generally carries up to ten years in prison and a maximum $2,500 in fines. But particularly egregious cases that are categorized as "aggravated vehicular manslaughter" carry enhanced penalties, including up to 20 years in prison.

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