Changes to Distracted Driving & DUI Laws in Virginia
New VA Distracted Driving Laws
Starting July 1st, 2013 there will be a ban on all cellphone texting, emailing, or other distracting handheld device activities for all drivers statewide. While doing so, drivers can get pulled over and ticketed. Formerly, texting had been a secondary offense, meaning officers could cite offenders only if they were stopped for a superseding violation such as speeding or running a red light. Now, working an iPhone or other handheld device while driving means a $125 first-offense fine, up from $20. Subsequent violations can be punished with larger penalties.
For school bus drivers, all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) will be banned under Virginia primary law. There will also be a secondary-law ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for all novice drivers.
Anyone who is convicted of even a single DUI will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle for six months, at their own expense.
With the device installed, convicted DUI offenders must blow into the device to start their cars; the cars will only start if they are under the legal alcohol limit. The device will also randomly check up on offenders while driving to ensure that they are still under the legal limit.
In addition to the interlock device, Virginia DUI offenses will carry the following penalties:
- First offense: Mandatory $250 fine and driver’s license suspended for one year.
- Second offense within ten years of prior offense: Mandatory, minimum ten-day jail term (in addition to fines and license suspensions).
- Second offense within five years of prior offense: Mandatory, minimum 20-day jail term (in addition to fines and license suspensions).
- Conviction for DUI third offense or DWI felony: Prosecution as a class 6 felony. Mandatory, minimum $1,000 fine. Mandatory, indefinite driver’s license revocation. If a Virginia motorist’s license has already been revoked for a first or second DUI offense conviction and the offender then receives another DUI, the revocation period will run consecutively with the existing revocation period.
- Conviction for DUI third offense within ten years of prior offense: Mandatory minimum 90-day jail term, and permanent forfeiture of your vehicle (if you are the sole owner).
- Conviction for DUI third offense within five years of prior offense: Mandatory, minimum six-month jail term.
- Conviction for DUI fourth or subsequent offense: Mandatory, minimum one-year jail term.
- All motorists are prosecuted if law enforcement finds them to have a BAC over the legal limit, but motorists with exceptionally-high BAC levels will receive additional penalties under Virginia law.
- BAC between .15% and .20% at the time of arrest: Mandatory, minimum five-day jail term in addition to all other penalties for a first offense; mandatory, minimum ten-day jail term in addition to all other penalties for a second offense within ten years.
- BAC of .20% or higher at the time of arrest: Mandatory, minimum ten-day jail term in addition to all other penalties for a first offense.
Changes to Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Taxes in VA
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell created a new law projected to generate $1.4 billion a year in taxes to improve the roadways of Virginia. This tax is especially designed for the roadways that cater to the suburbs of Washington DC, as they experience an amount of traffic that was not originally planned for.
Bill 2313, the title of the legislation, will increase the amount of percentage that the state receives from sales tax, from 4% to 4.3%. Once the local sales tax is added to this, the tax will increase from 5% to 5.3% for consumers.
Previously, the Virginia tax on gasoline was 17.5 cents per gallon. Whereas formerly there was a tax on every gallon of gas consumers purchased, Bill 2313 prescribes a wholesale flat rate tax of 3.5% for the entire gas purchase. It is projected to save users of gasoline powered cars about 6 cents per gallon compared to the previous tax of 15.5 cents per gallon. From the current Virginia average gasoline price of just under $3.40 per gallon, drivers would save $1.20 on a 20-gallon fill-up.
Bill 2313 will place a tax upon diesel, for the first time in Virginia. The diesel tax will be a wholesale flat rate similar to the gasoline tax, although the rate for diesel, at 6%, will be slightly higher than for gas. With last week’s average Virginia diesel price of $3.70 per gallon, motorists who use diesel will pay 4 cents more per gallon, or 80 cents more than the existing tax, for a 20-gallon fill-up.
The reconstructed taxes are designed to prepare for the increasing prices of fuel. Those who drive electric or hybrid cars will be required to pay a fee of $64 annually upon registering their vehicle. With the rising popularity of electric and hybrid cars, the rationale behind the fee is that everyone who uses Virginia’s roads should contribute to their upkeep, not just those whose vehicles use gasoline.
Learn More About Current Laws
If you are seeking information or representation concerning any new driving laws in the commonwealth of Virginia, please call The Law Office of Thomas Soldan at (703) 957-7373 for a free initial consultation with an experienced Virginia traffic lawyer.