New Drunk Driving Laws Take Effect Thursday

By: Damon Dillman
By: Damon Dillman

Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Robertson can remember what Virginia's drunk driving laws used to be like.

"You'd get jury trials, because people very often on juries would look at the defendant and say, ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’" Robertson recalled of his early days practicing law, 34 years ago.

Valley Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) Executive Director Dolores Duncan has similar memories.

"Years ago, when I moved here as well, if you did an ASAP program, your DUI was reduced down to reckless driving," she said.

But starting Thursday, Virginia will be getting a whole lot tougher on drunk drivers. That's when 25 new laws, passed by the General Assembly and being called some of the toughest in the country, take effect.

"They went after the repeat offender, and they also targeted what they call the "super drunks." People with high (blood-alcohol) levels," Duncan said.

For instance, if a driver gets a second DUI within ten years of his or her first, it's a mandatory ten-day jail sentence. If it's within five years, the sentence becomes 20 days. And a blood-alcohol level above .15 means even more jail time.

A .15 blood-alcohol level will also get offenders, even first-timers, an ignition interlock attached to his or her car.

"So they've gotten even tougher all around," said Robertson. "But what it does is make the road safe for you and me."


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