New Virginia Law Sets Tougher Penalties for Teens Who Drink and Drive

A new Virginia law increasing the consequences for underage drinking and driving went into effect July 1, 2011.

The 2011 Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed a bill establishing a “zero tolerance” (0.02% BAC) for underage drinking and driving by making it punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor. The punishment for teens that drink and drive – teens convicted of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) – now includes two additional severe penalties:

1.    loss of their driver’s license for one year from the date of conviction, AND

2.    either a mandatory minimum fine of $500.00 or 50 hours of community service.[1]

Compared to the previous penalty for underage conviction of a DWI – license forfeiture for only 6 months and a fine of no more than $500.00 – these new laws have serious consequences for teens convicted of under age drinking and driving [c1] (and their DWI lawyers[c2] ).

The need for tougher laws on teen drinking and driving is obvious. Alcohol use remains widespread among our youth. Nearly three quarters (72%) of students have consumed alcohol by the end of high school and more than a third (37%) have done so by the eighth grade.[2] Furthermore, motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death for 15-20 year old drivers. [3] In light of these sobering facts, the zero tolerance law is long overdue.

No legislature can completely eliminate underage driving while intoxicated, but hopefully the increased severity of these new under age drinking and driving [c3] laws will send a message and help curb this dangerous behavior.

About the Author: Fredericksburg car accident attorney David M. Williams, Jr. is an expert in the litigation and alternate dispute resolution of personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice and products liability cases.  David has successfully argued multiple cases before the Virginia Supreme Court in more than 15 years of experience with personal injury law.

[1] HB – 1407 & SB – 770 amending §18.2-2661. Of the 1950 Code of Virginia as amended.
[2] SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) National Institute on Drug Abuse – US Department of Health and Human Services (2009)