How Your BAC Can Aggravate Your DWI Charge

March 18, 2024
driver due to being subject to test for alcohol content with use of breathalyzer

Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), also known as driving while intoxicated (DWI), is a serious offense in Virginia and across the United States.  The penalties associated with DUI/DWI can be severe, but in many cases, the exact charges and punishments you face depend on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the arrest.

What is BAC?

BAC measures the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, expressed as a percentage. In Virginia, a BAC of 0.08% or higher is considered legally intoxicated for drivers over 21. However, consequences can be more severe depending on how much higher your BAC is than the legal limit. A DWI charge not only affects your immediate freedom but also has long-term implications on your driving privileges, employment opportunities, and social reputation.

How Does BAC Affect DUI Penalties?

While getting arrested with a BAC above 0.08% may or may not be enough for a DUI conviction,  Virginia has harsher punishments for those with a higher BAC.  Here’s how your BAC can impact the level of your charge:

  • Elevated BAC (0.15% to 0.20%): Falling within this BAC range categorizes your offense as having a high BAC, triggering more severe repercussions. Specifically, you may encounter mandatory minimum jail sentences and more severe license ramifications with respect to restricted privileges. These enhanced penalties reflect the increased risk posed to public safety by individuals with significantly impaired judgment and motor skills.
  • Exceedingly High BAC (0.20% and above): Surpassing this BAC level places you in an extremely high-risk category. At this level, mandatory minimum jail time increases significantly. It is also at this level where prosecutors and judges become apprehensive about restricted driving privileges.

Virginia’s DUI penalties are not solely dependent on BAC levels; other circumstances surrounding your offense can exacerbate the consequences:

  • Prior DUI/DWI Convictions: Repeat offenders face increasingly harsh penalties, reflecting a zero-tolerance approach to recurrent DUI offenses.
  • Refusal to Undergo a BAC Test: Virginia adheres to an implied consent law, meaning refusal to take a BAC test can lead to additional charges.
  • Accidents: DUI offenses resulting in property damage, injuries, or fatalities carry far graver consequences, underscoring the severe implications of impaired driving.

It’s imperative to note that a blood alcohol content below 0.08% or a DUI charge without chemical analysis does not guarantee immunity from DUI charges. Law enforcement officers can charge you with DUI if they determine you meet the legal definition of intoxication based on their observations of you condition and behavior. This underscores the importance of responsible alcohol consumption and the understanding that impairment begins long before reaching the legal blood alcohol content limit.

Legal Implications of High BAC and How to Respond

If you discover that your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is high, it is imperative to understand the legal implications and take appropriate actions to mitigate potential consequences. Firstly, avoid driving or engaging in any activity that could lead to legal repercussions under the influence, as a high BAC significantly increases the risk of being charged and convicted  with DUI or DWI offenses.

Instead, secure a safe means of transportation, such as a taxi or a ridesharing service, to ensure you do not breach any laws. Should you find yourself in a situation where law enforcement is involved, it is crucial to be polite but also to know your rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to legal representation.

Finally, seeking legal advice from a qualified Virginia criminal defense attorney who practices in DUI/DWI cases can provide you with the necessary guidance on how to navigate the legal system and address any charges you may face, helping to minimize the impact on your future.

Seek Legal Representation Immediately

Being arrested for a DUI/DWI in Virginia is a frightening experience with potential life-altering repercussions. A skilled criminal lawyer practicing in Prince William County can help protect your rights and mitigate the consequences you face.

When looking for criminal attorneys for Prince William County, choose Rudolphi Law. We have extensive experience successfully defending clients against DUI/DWI charges. We will thoroughly examine your case, including the circumstances surrounding the arrest and the accuracy of any blood alcohol content testing. If you are facing DUI charges in Virginia, don’t jeopardize your future. Contact Rudolphi Law today for a consultation.