How DUI is Defined in Virginia

How does Virginia define DWI? 

Every state has its own set of DWI laws.  In Virginia, a DWI charge means that someone operated a motor vehicle on a public highway after having consumed enough alcohol or drugs to be considered “intoxicated” or to a degree that their ability to operate the vehicle is impaired. Virginia law typically infers someone to be intoxicated any time that person has a Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”) of (.08) or above.

This definition raises a few legal issues that must be addressed.  Some things to consider:

Is it possible to be convicted of a DWI even if you were not driving on a public road?   Yes, it is possible. A person can be charged with DWI in the parking lot of a movie theatre or grocery store.  The issue comes down to what is a "public highway," and unfortunately, Virginia law is broader than one would think. 

Did you know you can even be charged while parked?  Terms like “operating” are not as narrow as most think.  Legal definitions are frequently evolving, and under current Virginia law a person can be operating a vehicle simply by having the keys in the ignition.  That means “sleeping it off” in your car with the radio on may very well lead you to a DWI.

It is possible to be charged with DWI even if you were never in a car?  Using a moped or a scooter after a few drinks could be a violation of Virginia law, depending on the facts and circumstances. So for those of you who think they can avoid the complications of a suspended license by using a moped, you need to speak with your attorney before doing so. 

Also, having a BAC test result of (.08) or above is a inferred violation of the DWI statute, but it is actually possible to be charged and convicted with a lower BAC

So for those of you who think that Virginia DUI law is simple, I hope the above has made you think twice.  If you've been charged, you need to speak to an attorney. 

James S. Abrenio

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