What Is the Legal Limit in Virginia?
Feb. 8, 2021
The Commonwealth of Virginia has established that certain limits of alcohol or the presence of certain drugs in your bloodstream create an inference that you are intoxicated when behind the wheel. Knowing these limits and how different people are affected differently by the same amount of alcohol can help you be prepared and avoid a Virginia DUI conviction.
If you or someone you care about has been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Virginia, experienced DUI attorney Bryan J. Jones can defend your case and protect your constitutional rights. You do not have to face this process alone.
Legal Limits for Most Drivers
If a driver has a certain level of alcohol or drugs in their blood while driving, he or she can be arrested for DUI. This basically means that you are assumed to be intoxicated if you hit any of the following legal limits:
Alcohol: 0.08 percent
Cocaine: 0.02 milligrams per liter
Methamphetamine: 0.1 milligrams per liter
Phencyclidine (PCP): 0.01 milligrams per liter
MDMA (ecstasy): 0.1 milligrams per liter.
In Virginia, the law makes the following presumptions based on a person's legal limit as it relates to alcohol:
.08 or above: presumption of intoxication
.07 & .06: no presumption
.05: presumption that driver is not intoxicated
What if I Am Below the Legal Limit?
If you are below the legal limit, this does not mean that you will automatically avoid a DUI arrest. Officers can look at other factors to determine if you are intoxicated, like field sobriety tests or your own statements. If an officer determines that you may in intoxicated, despite being below the legal limit, you can still be arrested for and charged with DUI in Virginia.
Special Legal Limits
Drivers Under 21
Drivers under the age of 21 can be convicted of driving under the influence if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.02% or more while operating a motor vehicle. This lower limit reflects the fact that those under the age of 21 are generally not permitted to consume alcohol and are never permitted to consume any amount of alcohol and drive.
A commercial driver is a person who drives for a living and must obtain a commercial driver's license. A commercial driver is considered legally intoxicated if his or her BAC is 0.04% or more while operating a motor vehicle. Other significant penalties are also placed on commercial drivers who drive while intoxicated. To understand these additional issues that arise for commercial drivers, an experienced Virginia DUI attorney can help.
Alcohol and BAC: The Relationship
How alcohol will affect a person's BAC depends greatly on the individual characteristics of that person. Characteristics that may affect a person's BAC include:
Muscle mass v. fat ratio
Sensitivity to alcohol
Medical conditions (such as diabetes)
Food in the stomach.
Other factors that can greatly impact your BAC include:
Amount of alcohol consumed
How fast the alcohol was consumed
The type of alcohol consumed and its strength (alcohol by volume (ABV)
A combination of drugs, prescription medications, or over-the-counter medications.
All of these different factors combine to determine how your individual body will react to the consumption of alcohol, and how that consumption will affect your BAC.
BAC Over Time
How your BAC will change over time depends greatly on the factors listed above. Everyone is different, and there is no hard and fast rule as to when it becomes safe to drive.
As alcohol is absorbed into your body, your BAC will continue to rise. A person tends to reach his or her peak BAC 30 to 60 minutes after the consumption of an alcoholic beverage. This typically means that after that peak time, your BAC will begin to lower slowly as your body eliminates the alcohol in your blood.
However, if a person is drinking multiple drinks in a short time span, the BAC plateau can easily take over 2 hours to occur. Just because you have stopped drinking, and feel sober, does not mean that you will not become more intoxicated as you drive. This is especially true after imbibing multiple alcoholic beverages.
Consult an Experienced Virginia DUI Attorney
If you have been charged with DUI in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the penalties are serious and you face the potential for jail, high fines, and the loss of your driver's license. Knowing your rights when it comes to legal limits and DUI per se is an important part of protecting yourself against criminal charges.