Alcohol and the Law

If you are arrested for drinking and driving, the penalties are severe. If the police have probable cause to stop you and suspect that you have been drinking or using drugs, they will ask you to take a breath or blood test. Under implied consent laws, if you operate a motor vehicle on Virginia’s public roads, you agree to take a test upon request. If you are involved in a motor vehicle crash and a law enforcement officer has probable cause, you can be arrested for DUI within three hours of the crash without a warrant and at any location.

Administrative License Suspension

If you refuse a breath test or your BAC is .08 or higher while you are driving and law enforcement charges you with driving while under the influence of alcohol/drugs, your driving privilege will be automatically suspended:

  • for seven days, for a first offense
  • for 60 days or until you go to trial, whichever comes first, for a second offense
  • until the trial, for a third DUI offense

If you are convicted of DUI, the court and DMV will impose a suspension/revocation and other penalties in addition to the administrative license suspension. If you receive multiple DUI convictions, the suspension/revocation periods will run consecutively.

Open Alcohol Containers in Vehicles

You may be charged with drinking while operating a motor vehicle if you:

  • are stopped by law enforcement and you have an open container of alcohol in the passenger area and the contents have been partially removed, and
  • show signs that you have been drinking The passenger area means the area that seats the driver and passengers and any area within the driver’s reach, including an unlocked glove compartment.

Transporting Children While Under the Influence of Alcohol/Drugs

Conviction of any DUI offense involving a juvenile passenger (age 17 or younger) in the vehicle at the time of the offense carries an additional mandatory five-day jail term plus all other fines and jail sentences. You may also be charged an additional fine of at least $500 and up to $1,000. A second DUI offense with a juvenile in the vehicle carries an additional 80-hour community service requirement plus all other fines and jail sentences.

Vehicle Impoundment

Your vehicle will be impounded immediately for 30 days if you are caught driving after your license has been suspended for an alcohol-related offense. The court can impound the vehicle for an additional 90 days if you are convicted. Also, your vehicle will be impounded by law enforcement if you operate a motor vehicle without a license after you have previously been convicted of driving without a license. The vehicle will remain impounded until you obtain a license or for three days, whichever is less.


Depending on the laws of the city or county in which you are driving, you may be responsible for paying the cost (up to $1,000) for law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire fighters and rescue personnel who respond to a crash or incident resulting from your DUI violation.

Alcohol Related Violations and Penalties

Involving Persons Under Age 21 Purchasing/Consuming Alcohol: If you are under age 21, you cannot purchase, possess or consume alcohol. If you are convicted of driving after illegally consuming alcohol, and your BAC was at least .02 percent and less than .08, the court penalty will include:

  • a suspension of your driving privilege for one year from the date of conviction, and
  • a minimum mandatory fine of $500, or
  • the requirement that you complete at least 50 hours of community service.

If you are convicted of driving after illegally consuming alcohol and your BAC was .08 or higher, you may face the same penalties as an adult.

Providing Alcoholic Beverages

If you provide or sell alcoholic beverages to a person under age 21 or someone who is intoxicated or ordered by a court to refrain from drinking alcohol, you are subject to a fine up to $2,500, mandatory suspension of your driver’s license for up to one year, and 12 months in jail.

Misrepresentation of Age

If you are under age 21 and you use or attempt to use a fake ID to establish a false age in an attempt to drink or purchase alcohol, you will:

  • be fined at least $500
  • be required to perform at least 50 hours of community service 
  • face up to 12 months in jail, and 
  • face mandatory suspension of your driver’s license for at least six months but not more than one year


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