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Virginia DUI Definitions

The following is a glossary of terms commonly used in connection with DWI/DUI charges.

To learn more or discuss your case, contact a Virginia DUI lawyer today.


Blood Alcohol Content or Blood Alcohol Concentration confirms the intoxication level of a DWI suspect and is also used as prosecution evidence at trial. The level of impairment may vary slightly between individuals with the same BAC, but it is still a useful system of measure.


A person is guilty of Driving While Intoxicated in Virginia if the prosecution can prove the suspect has operated a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher or impaired, but not legally under the influence of alcohol.


This is a charge of Driving Under the Influence of illegal drugs, prescription medications, or a combination of drugs and alcohol.  It is also charged against drivers under 21 who have more than 0.02 BAC.


Any device that measures alcohol in the body by way of a breath test.  When introduced in the 70’s, it was the brand name of the first such device.  Today, it refers to an entire class of very similar breath apparatus’ made by several manufacturers.  They are also used on ignition interlock devices to prevent  drivers from starting their car if a certain level of breath alcohol is detected.

Chemical Test

A test of a suspect’s BAC. There are three types of chemical tests for alcohol: breathalyzer, blood analysis, or urinalysis. If drugs other than alcohol are suspected then a blood test or urine test is commonly administered.  However, urine tests are not used in Virginia.


Commonly referred to as Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs).  If a police officer pulls a driver over and suspects that he or she is under the influence of alcohol then the driver will likely be asked to take a series of field sobriety tests. These tests are voluntary and the driver must agree to take them.  Once taken, if he or she fails one or more, the officer likely has probable cause to arrest the driver.  The three most common SFSTs measure driver physical coordination and psychological acuity.  They include: walking in a straight line and turning around, standing on one leg while counting, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus.

The elderly, overweight, and those with many chronic medical conditions often have difficulty with these tests even when sober.

Administrative License Suspension

Only drivers who are charged with refusal to submit to a breath or blood test or with a DUI based on a BAC of .08 or more run this risk prior to being convicted of a DUI related offense. Those who are summoned by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) must appear at an administrative hearing to determine if they will keep their driver’s license.  Administrative suspensions last only seven days for first-time offenders.

But drivers with prior convictions or who cause injury-related accidents, could have their license suspended for 60 days or until the day of their trial – whichever comes first.  Drivers have the right to appeal an administrative suspension and/or receive a restricted driver’s license during the suspension period.

Ignition Interlock

This apparatus is slightly larger than a pack of cigarettes. An Interlock is connected to a vehicle’s ignition system by an approved private mechanic. Before starting their vehicle, the driver is required to provide a proper breath sample in the mouthpiece of the Interlock. The breath is registered by the device and logged into its memory for retrieval.  If there is no alcohol in the breath sample, the interlock allows the driver to start the vehicle. If alcohol is present, the vehicle will not start.  All interlock data can be downloaded at any time.

If there is no alcohol in the breath sample, the interlock allows the driver to start the vehicle. If alcohol is present, the vehicle will not start.  All interlock data can be downloaded at any time.

Also, when the vehicle is operation, the interlock will ask the driver to periodically submit additional breath samples. If the device detects alcohol in any subsequent breath samples, the ignition interrupt function will warn the driver that he or she needs to pull over and turn the vehicle off.

Implied Consent

If you drive on the highways of the Commonwealth of Virginia, you implicitly agree (give your “implied consent”) that if you are ever validly arrested for DUI, you must submit to a breath or blood test for purposes of determining your BAC.  The officer does not need to ask your permission. You may of course refuse the testing but fines and immediate driver license suspension await you.  A refusal to submit to the test is a separate offense commonly referred to as unreasonable refusal.

Liability Insurance (and SR 22)

It is against the law for anyone to drive in Virginia without “minimum coverage” vehicle insurance which is commonly referred to as 25/50/25:

  •  $25,000 for bodily injury/death per person,

If you are convicted of DUI, your insurance company could significantly raise your coverage rates or drop you.  Then, if you wish to continue driving, you will be forced to purchase a “high-risk” coverage (SR-22) policy.  Rates for such coverage are often excessive; at least double the rates you pay to your traditional insurance company – and could be even more than double.


In Virginia, those convicted of felonies in which property is damaged, stolen or destroyed must pay restitution to the property owner if ordered to do so by the Court.  That’s the reason why we have auto insurance in order to make certain that reasonable restitution is made when you cause an accident.  But look at the minimum coverages above and check your policy too.

With the high cost of healthcare – and the value of the average new automobile slightly over $20,000 – those with coverage amounts of less than 50/100/50 can count on their insurance being exhausted if they cause a serious DUI-related accident.  And a DUI is legally classified as negligence which makes it the basis for a very expensive civil lawsuit being filed against you by the accident victims. Too few DUI offenders think of this until it’s too late.

Vehicle Impound Or Immobilization

If you are arrested for a DUI and there is no one available to drive your vehicle home, it will be towed to a location specified by the police.  When you then wish to claim your vehicle, it will likely cost several hundred dollars in towing and storage fees.

If your driver’s license is revoked, and if you have an ignition interlock device placed in your vehicle, it can be immobilized by a “Denver Boot.”  This is an anchoring device that is locked onto one of your tires and prevents it from being moved until you have the interlock installed.  You can not even change the tire when your vehicle is “booted.”

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