The Commonwealth of Virginia has passed a new law that will drastically change the way they handle first time offender DUI cases. Beginning on July 1, 2012, all offenders who pursue a restricted license for all legal purposes will be required to purchase an ignition interlock device and use it in their vehicle. Virginia law states that any person who violates either their DUI/DWI statutes will have their license suspended for one (1) year. The defendant can then apply for a restricted license during that time for all purposes permitted by law, including but not limited to: traveling to work, school, mandatory driving classes, medical appointments for either themselves or a dependent, and religious services. Before July 1, 2012, once a first time offender paid their fine and court costs, enroll in the ASAP program, they would be eligible for a full restricted privileges. The new law dictates that the ignition interlock system be a requirement for the first six (6) months of the restricted privilege period. If the offender willingly gives up his ability to drive for the next year, then the ignition interlock would not be necessary or installed. But if an offender requests a restricted license than the use of ignition interlock system for six (6) months, including the costs of installment and maintenance, is enforced.
If a driver is a repeat offender, than the ignition interlock system becomes mandatory for their reinstatement of their license after they have an extended period of lost privileges. That means that it would be enforced for all driving activities once the offender has regained full use of their driving privileges, not just during the period when they are issued a restricted license.
This new law has sparked somewhat of a debate throughout Virginia about whether or not it is fair to first time offenders to have their punishment be so harsh. Nobody wants to encourage drunk driving, but there are some groups out there that feel like the penalties that were already in place for a first time offender are enough to discourage it, especially because a first time offense can just be a mistake that someone made without realizing.
With the penalties become so severe for even a first time offense at just over the legal limit, the importance of a qualified DUI lawyer in Virginia who can handle your case increases exponentially. The penalties are serious, as should be your defense.
For more information on new driving laws in Virginia, including distracted driving, visit this page here.
Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law