A one-time mistake can have permanent consequences for drivers in Virginia convicted of driving under the influence. In some cases, the defendant will plead guilty even if they have done nothing wrong just to avoid the maximum possible penalties of a DUI conviction. However, it is important to understand what a DUI conviction in Virginia can mean for your driving and criminal record.
Consequences of a DUI on Your Record
The criminal consequences of a drunk driving conviction include fines, possible jail time, and a driver's license suspension. However, there are other long-lasting consequences that can follow you after serving any criminal sentence. A DUI conviction will result in a criminal record, a mark on your driving record, and impact your insurance rates for years.
Criminal DUI Record
A DUI is a Class 1 Misdemeanor in Virginia. Unfortunately for anyone convicted of a DUI in Virginia, that criminal conviction will remain on their criminal record forever. There is no time limit for when a DUI conviction will drop off or when a driver convicted can have their DUI expunged.
A criminal record is a record of an individual's criminal history. This may include a record of arrests, convictions, and other court dispositions. The criminal record is used by law enforcement to see an individual's entire criminal history, which can be used against a defendant facing criminal charges. For example, a criminal record would show prior drunk driving convictions so the prosecutor would charge a new drunk driving charge as a subsequent charge with increased penalties.
A criminal record can also be used by private parties or government agencies in doing background checks, security clearance, immigration uses, and housing or employment applications. Parts of an individual's criminal records are considered public records. This means that members of the public may be able to search an individual's criminal history.
Criminal records generally consist of criminal arrests, charges, and convictions. A DUI arrest will result in an arrest record. If the Commonwealth files charges, those charges will be noted on the criminal record. If the driver pleads guilty or is found guilty in court, the conviction will be added to the record.
Virginia DMV Driving Record and a DUI
A DUI will also be recorded on your Virginia DMV driving record. A DUI conviction can impact your driving privileges, driving restrictions, and insurance coverage requirements. A DMV conviction will also add six points to your license, which could result in additional driving restrictions, based on other driving infractions or offenses.
However, unlike on a criminal record, a DUI will be noted on your DMV transcript for eleven (11) years.
How Long Will a DUI Affect My Car Insurance Rates in Virginia?
You cannot drive in Virginia without car insurance. The minimum amount of liability coverage for most drivers in Virginia is:
- Bodily Injury: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident
- Property Damage: $20,000 per accident
- Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident
- Uninsured Motorist Property Damage: $20,000 per accident
However, after a drunk driving conviction, drivers need to get special coverage before they are able to drive again in Virginia. The DMV requires drivers convicted of driving while under the influence of intoxicants or drugs to have a Financial Responsibility Certificate (FR-44). This is similar to an SR-22 filing of financial responsibility but has higher liability coverage requirements.
An FR-44 is issued by car insurance companies for drivers with a DWI conviction. The minimum amount of liability coverage for FR-44 coverage is double that of other drivers, including:
- Bodily Injury: $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident
- Property Damage: $40,000 per accident
Unfortunately for many drivers, their car insurance company will not continue to offer coverage for someone with a recent DUI and the driver will have to seek out new coverage in order to drive. FR-44 may also have much higher premiums.
Drivers convicted of a DUI may have to maintain FR-44 coverage for three to four years. If a driver waits until their period of revocation is over, the driver will have to maintain FR-44 filing for three years. If the driver gets a restricted license before the revocation period ends, the driver may have to maintain FR-44 filing for four years.
Can I Have a DUI Expunged or Have My Records Sealed?
In most cases, you cannot have a DUI conviction expunged from your record or have your DUI records sealed. Eligibility for expungement is generally only available if one of the following dispositions was entered in your case:
- Acquittal (found not guilty);
- Charge Nolle Prossed (the Commonwealth withdrew the charges); or
- Charges dismissed.
Having your record “expunged” essentially takes the charge off your public criminal record. Public and private employers searching your criminal record would not see evidence of the arrest after the arrest record is sealed.
The only way to keep a DUI conviction off your criminal record is to avoid a criminal conviction in the first place. Talk to your Charlottesville DUI defense attorney about your cases and your best chance to avoid a criminal record. There are a number of defenses available to anyone charged with a DUI in Virginia, including challenging the traffic stop, roadside tests, and chemical drug or alcohol results.
Charlottesville DUI Defense Attorney
A drunk driving conviction in Virginia will lead to a permanent criminal record. However, getting arrested for drunk driving does not mean you have to be convicted. Avoiding a criminal conviction can save you thousands in increased insurance rates and having to worry about a mark on your criminal record for the rest of your life. Your best chance to fight a DUI conviction is talking to an experienced Virginia DUI defense attorney about your case. Contact attorney Thomas M. Wilson today for a free consultation.