All 50 states have laws dealing with driving while intoxicated. While there are some universal provisions, other regulations can vary greatly. It’s important to understand the DUI laws of the states that you live in or travel through. Not knowing them can result not just in inconvenience. It can mean the loss of your driver’s license, or even personal freedom. West Virginia DUI laws are among the toughest in the nation, with penalties for driving drunk on your own property among other infractions. Read on to learn more about West Virginia DUI laws.
What Is The Blood Alcohol Concentration Limit?
West Virginia changed its legislation concerning a driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level in 2004. It is now illegal to operate a motor vehicle in the state if you have a BAC of .08 or higher. However, it is important to note that under West Virginia law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under any level of intoxication. This means that you can be charged with a DUI if you have a BAC beneath .08, but fail other field sobriety tests.
What Happens If I Get Pulled Over?
West Virginia DUI laws allow law enforcement officers “reasonably suspicious” about driver intoxication to pull individuals over. The officers will question the driver and may ask that the driver participate in “field” sobriety tests.
Drivers are legally permitted to refuse to do so. If officers believe a driver or the driver’s vehicle poses a public safety hazard, then they may prohibit the driver from operating the vehicle or even remove the driver and vehicle from the scene. If pulled over for a potential DUI, the driver should be polite and “reasonably” cooperative with law enforcement officers. They must also call an attorney as soon as possible.
Can I Refuse the BAC Test?
West Virginia DUI laws grant you the right to refuse to submit to this test. If you refuse to take it (which implies that you know that you’re intoxicated), the state may suspend West Virginia driver licenses for up to 45 days.
Out of state drivers who refuse BAC tests will also have their rights to drive suspended within the state of West Virginia. In this case, the driving suspension can last for as long as 12 months. In addition, law enforcement officers will send information on out of state drivers to the DMV which issued the driver’s license. This could lead to other driving repercussions for the driver in his or her home state.
What Happens If I Refuse It?
After you’ve refused the test and received the automatic suspension, West Virginia drivers have two choices. They can agree to have an interlock device (also known as a “blow and go”) installed on their car for a 12 month period. This device will not allow a driver to turn on and operate a motor vehicle until the driver’s BAC has been recorded and found to be within legal limits.
The driver is financially responsible for all costs of installing and maintaining such a device. Or the driver can request a hearing to review the case. If a driver requests a hearing, it’s strongly recommended that an attorney be present to assist the driver. Permanent loss of the right to drive in West Virginia and other charges are among the consequences of a failed hearing.
Can I Plead “Wet Reckless”?
This term refers to reckless behavior with alcohol. Drivers who plead to this are admitting to driving while intoxicated, but the resulting consequences are less severe than the ones that could occur if a “not-guilty” plea is lost. West Virginia DUI laws allow for this type of sentencing. Because sentencing determinations are affected by individual cases, the presence of an attorney for this type of plea bargaining is highly recommended.
First Offense DUI
If convicted of a first offense, drivers usually face no jail time, unless there are extenuating (usually bodily injury or death) circumstances. They risk the loss of their drivers license for a six month period following a hearing outcome. If drivers agree to immediately participate in an interlock device program, then they may continue to drive after a 45 day license suspension. If drivers successfully complete the interlock program, then full driving rights are restored. First offense fines range between $100-$500. These don’t include court costs.
Second Offense DUI
West Virginia DUI laws term a second offense a misdemeanor. If a West Virginia driver has gotten this DUI in another state, it is still considered the driver’s second DUI offense in West Virginia. Jail time (6 to 12 months) and fines ($1,000-$3,000) are possible with this offense. In addition to fines, you may also be responsible for any court costs.
It should be noted that these are minimum sentences and fines. Times and fees can increase based on case circumstances and prior criminal records of the driver. If you choose not to participate in (and pay for) an interlock program, then your West Virginia driving privileges may be terminated for anywhere from one to 10 years.
Third Offense DUI
Under West Virginia DUI laws, a third offense is considered a felony. Minimum jail terms range from one to three years. Minimum fine amounts range from $3,000-$5,000. Drivers are required to have a interlock device placed on their vehicle for a mandatory three year period if their driver’s license is restored. A driver’s license is often permanently revoked if found guilty of this charge. And the state uses a 10 year window in considering previous driver convictions. Also known as a “look back”, this technique can also affect sentencing.
Fourth Offense DUI
The same fees and penalties charged for third offenses apply here. This is in addition to any other charges brought against drivers for previous convictions. As with lesser DUI convictions, it is possible to enter “wet reckless” plea agreements here. This often results in less onerous fines and court costs, and probation as opposed to jail time.
The best way to avoid DUI trouble in any state is of course to not drink while driving. But given the variety and complexity of state DUI laws, and how frequently they are subject to change, the best recourse when charged with this offense is to receive well versed legal assistance. Drivers should educate themselves about DUI laws in all states they travel in. Don’t hesitate to seek legal advice when needed.