Vermont Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties

Learn about the penalties for a first, second, and third DUI conviction in Vermont.

Vermont prohibits a person from operating, attempting to operate, or being in actual physical control of a vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater (.04% or more if operating a commercial vehicle and .02% if operating a bus)
  • while “under the influence” of any controlled substance, alcohol, or combination thereof.

“Actual physical control” requires the ability to exert control over a motor vehicle, but does not require actual movement, a conscious driver, or even an operable vehicle. “Under the influence” means the person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely is diminished or impaired in the slightest degree.

A driver with a BAC of .08% or more is considered to be “per se DUI,” which can result in a conviction regardless of actual impairment. The amount of alcohol needed to reach this BAC level depends on a number of factors, including the person’s gender and body size and the type of alcohol.

Vermont DUI Penalties

The possible penalties for a DUI conviction depend on the circumstances of the current offense and the number of prior DUI offenses the driver has.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

Up to two years

Up to two years (minimum 60 hours jail or 200 hours community service)

Up to five years (minimum 96 hours jail)

Fines

Up to $750

Up to $1,500

Up to $2,500

Deaths and injuries (“aggravated DUI”). A DUI that results in a fatality carries a fine up to $10,000 and a maximum 15 years in prison. A DUI that results in an injury carries a fine of up to $5,000 and a maximum 15 years in prison. And an aggravated DUI charge does not preclude prosecution for vehicular assault or vehicular manslaughter.

High BAC. Anyone convicted of a second DUI with a BAC of .16% or greater—in addition to the normal penalties—will be prohibited from driving with a BAC of .02% or more for the three years after conviction. During these three years, driving with a BAC of .02% or more is a DUI and penalized as such.

Screening. For a second or subsequent DUI conviction, the judge can order a drug and alcohol screening to determine if treatment is appropriate for the accused. Any time completed in inpatient treatment can be counted towards jail time served.

Driver’s License Penalties

The commissioner of motor vehicles receives notice of all DUI convictions. The commission will suspend the convicted driver’s license following periods:

  • 1st offense: 90-day suspension (one year if fatality or injury involved).
  • 2nd offense: 18-month suspension.
  • 3rd or subsequent offense: Lifetime suspension.

A suspended driver can apply for an ignition interlock device (IID) license. The IID license permits the suspended driver to operate a vehicle equipped with an IID during the suspension period. The applicant must pay the $125 application fee and install an IID. Before being eligible for the license, the applicant must complete a period of the suspension: 30 days for a first offense, 90 days for a second offense, one year for a third offense, and one year for a DUI involving a death or injury. An IID license must be renewed annually.

Reinstatement. Prior to license reinstatement, the convicted motorist must take care of any pending fines or criminal charges. To reinstate after a first DUI, the driver must complete an alcohol and driving education program. Reinstatement after a second DUI conviction requires an alcohol and driving rehabilitation program and proof of progress in therapy. A person suspended for life due to a third offense can apply for reinstatement after completing the alcohol and driving rehabilitation program, showing progress in therapy, and abstaining from drugs and alcohol for three years (evidenced by IID use without any violations). Also, the commissioner can add additional restrictions to the licensee.

Immobilized. For a second or subsequent DUI conviction, the court can order the driver’s vehicle immobilized. The vehicle will remain immobilized for 18 months or until the driver’s license is reinstated.

Forfeiture. For a third or subsequent offense, the court can order the forfeiture and sale of the vehicle used in the commission of the DUI.

Implied Consent

Pursuant to Vermont’s implied consent law, all drivers on Vermont highways are deemed to have consented to testing of their breath and blood for the presence of alcohol or drugs. Refusal to submit to a lawful request for a breath or blood sample will result in license suspension. The officer is supposed to certify that the driver refused to test and submit the certificate to the commissioner of motor vehicles. For a first refusal, the driver’s license will be suspended for six months. Evidence of a test refusal is also admissible in court as proof of culpability.

An officer is also supposed to submit a certificate for drivers who produce a BAC of .08% or greater. The commissioner, having received the notice, will suspend the driver’s license for 90 days.

A second or subsequent BAC test failure or refusal will result in an 18-month suspension. These “administrative” suspension periods can overlap with the criminal suspensions and an IID license is available.

Underage DUI

All drivers younger 21 years old are prohibited from having a BAC of .02% or more. Any underage driver who produces a BAC of .02% or higher or refuses a lawful chemical test will be subject to penalties. For a first violation, the driver’s license will be suspended for six months. For a second or subsequent offense, the motorist’s license will be suspended until the age of 21. All underage offenders must complete the alcohol and driving program.

Underage drivers who are caught operating a vehicle with a BAC of .08% or more or while “under the influence” as defined above can also be charged with a standard DUI.

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