Virginia Statutes: New Virginia DUI Laws Effective July 1, 2012

Virginia’s DUI laws get tougher with the introduction of the Ignition Interlock Device MANDATORY for all that are convicted of driving under the influence

On July 1, 2012, a new law went into effect in the Commonwealth prohibiting all drivers convicted of first time offense of driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances (DUI) from operating any motor vehicle that does not have  a certified Ignition Interlock Device (IID).[1]  This restriction is mandatory for a period of at least six months and the driver must have no alcohol violations during that period.  Prior to July, 1, 2012, the law required these IIDs be imposed only on first time offenders with a blood alcohol content of  0.15 or higher and for second and succeeding offenses of the law.  The legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC).

The purpose of the Ignition Interlock Device is to make intoxicated driving impossible for the offender and thus stop repeated instances of drunk driving by those drivers who have been previously convicted.  The device, if used properly, does not allow an intoxicated driver to start his vehicle.  More than 15 studies have shown that IIDs are associated with a substantial reduction in repeating of this dangerous behavior, with the reductions ranging from 50% to 90%.  These studies indicate that the device is largely effective in preventing repeat offenses .

How does the Ignition Interlock Device work?  Before a driver can start the vehicle, the IID requires the driver to blow into the device.   The car will not start if the IID records anything above a .02 percent blood alcohol content.  After that initial test, the device requires a driver to take another test every 10 to 40 minutes to make sure the driver has not started drinking after starting the vehicle.  These “rolling tests” continue at various times until the driver turns the vehicle off.  If the driver fails the rolling test by blowing over a .02 or not blowing into the device within a specified time, the vehicle’s horn and lights will start going off until the driver pulls over and turns off the vehicle.

The driver must return the vehicle to the company that installed the device once a month. There a technician inspects the device and downloads a report which is sent to the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP).  The downloaded report indicates how often and when the vehicle was driven, and how many times the IID recorded a blood alcohol content over a 0.015.  Any violation of this level could lead to the person being required to use the IID for another six months, or even loss of their driver’s license or a jail sentence.

The use of the IID in Virginia goes back to 1995 when they were first approved by the General Assembly.  In 2004, the code was modified to require the IID for repeat offenders and those convicted for a first time with a high level of intoxication.  At the start of 2012, 15 other states had laws requiring the IID for those first convicted at the 0.08 BAC level.  IIDs are mandatory at differing levels in approximately 40 states and optional in all others.[2]  Governor Bob McDonnell, both Republican and Democratic legislators, traffic safety advocates, AAA, the Virginia State Police and MADD were all behind the stiffening of the DUI laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  MADD has developed a “Don’t Blow it” campaign to educate motorists of the new law through print and social media. [3]

Prior to July 1, 2012, approximately 4,500 IIDs were installed on vehicles in Virginia.  In 2011, over twenty-eight thousand Virginia drivers were convicted of DUI offenses.  Under the new law, use of the IID is expected to increase dramatically.   The mandatory use is expected to increase the cost of a DUI conviction.  While there is no installation charge for the device, the monthly monitoring charge runs from $60.00 to $80.00 of which $20.00 each month is routed to the state and regional VASAP programs.  Criminal defense attorneys estimate that a person’s first DUI arrest will now cost $10,000.00 or more.

This is another measure supported by many trying to eliminate drunk driving in Virginia.  Keeping the roadways free of drunk drivers is a goal we should all support.  No family should have to hear the tragic news that a loved one was killed or injured by a drunk driver.

Paul Hux is a Petersburg, VA car accident lawyer with the personal injury law firm of Allen & Allen. Paul primarily handles cases in the firm’s Petersburg and Chesterfield offices. Paul has 20 years of experience helping Petersburg, VA and Southern Virginia clients recover damages after being injured by drunk drivers, motorcycle accidents, car crashes, boating accidents, wrongful death cases and brain injury cases.

[2] See “State Ignition Interlock Laws” at the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures at