Third-Offense DWI in Virginia

The penalties and classification of a third Virginia DWI conviction.

A DWI (driving while intoxicated) conviction is considered a third offense in Virginia if the driver has two prior DWI convictions that occurred within the last ten years. A third-offense DWI is a level-six felony and carries prison time, fines, and license revocation. This article explains the specific penalties involved.

Criminal Penalties

The penalties for a third-offense DWI are specified by law. DWI offenders who had a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or a minor passenger at the time of the offense face increased penalties.

Jail time. As a felony, a third DWI offense carries one to five years in prison. The judge is permitted to order jail time instead of prison, but the offender must serve 60 days in jail prior to release on probation. If all three offenses occurred within a five-year period, the offender must serve at least six months in jail before release on probation. And if the driver had a juvenile passenger, the judge will add five days to the minimum sentence.

Fines. A felony DWI conviction generally carries $1,000 to $2,500 in fines. There's an additional fine of $500 to $1,000 if the driver was transporting a passenger under 18 years old at the time of the DWI offense.

Treatment. Third offenders must enroll in Virginia's Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP), which normally includes a substance abuse evaluation and some type of treatment or educational course.

Forfeiture. For a third DWI, the judge can order vehicle forfeiture.

Driver's License Consequences

A driver who has a BAC of at least .08% at the time of arrest will typically have his or her license immediately seized by the arresting officer. The license will be held by the local court until the DWI charge is resolved. If the DWI results in a third-offense conviction, the Virginia Department of Transportation (DOT) will permanently revoke the driver's license. Third offenders—unlike first and second offenders—generally aren't eligible for any form of restricted or temporary license for at least three years.

After five years of revocation, the offender can file a petition with the court to show good cause for license reinstatement. If the driver shows good cause, the court can issue a restricted license, subject to ignition interlock device (IID) requirements for not less than six months. It's possible for a driver to obtain a restricted IID license after three years of license revocation, but the license will allow the driver to go only to and from work.

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