If you are convicted of driving under the influence in Virginia, one of the consequences involves going through a substance abuse education program. Sometimes called DUI school, this is the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program, or VASAP. Drivers convicted of a DUI must generally complete the VASAP program as a condition of his or her suspended jail sentence and in order to re-obtain their license to drive.
What is VASAP for Virginia DUIs?
Under Virginia Code 18.2-271.1, any person convicted of a first DUI or second DUI shall be required to complete the VASAP program as a condition of probation or otherwise. In practice, what this actually means is that a driver must complete VASAP as a condition of his suspended jail sentence and as a condition of his ability to acquire and hold a restricted driver's license. Most court's do not impose supervised probation in DUI cases, as VASAP provides a similar function.
VASAP to Get a Restricted License
Enrollment in a qualifying VASAP program before trial may pre-qualify a driver with the program to get an ignition interlock system installed. However, the ignition interlock device (IID) shall not be installed until the court issues the person a restricted license along with an order for the ignition interlock restriction. Together, enrolling in a VASAP program, getting a restricted license, and installing an ignition interlock device may allow the individual to get partial driving privileges back before the end of the license suspension or revocation period.
Who Needs to Attend VASAP?
Under Virginia law, anyone convicted of a first or second DUI must complete the VASAP program, unless, after evaluation, the assessment by VASAP indicates that intervention is not appropriate for such person, in which case the court, for good cause shown, may decline to order such participation. If the individual goes to the VASAP program and tests positive for drugs or alcohol, he or she will be referred to a VASAP treatment program. If the participant tests positive for drugs or alcohol while in the treatment program, he or she may be returned to the court as non-compliant.
The court may also require other VASAP programs for other DUI offenders, including evaluations, relapse prevention, and driving privilege restoration evaluation programs for habitual offenders.
Even if your lawyer can negotiate a deal to plead guilty to a reckless driving conviction instead of a DUI, you may be required to attend a VASAP program. There are not many alternative sentences in DUI cases; however, your Virginia DUI defense attorney may be able to get the DUI reduced to reckless driving. As part of the reckless driving deal, the defendant may have to agree to complete a VASAP program.
VASAP Program Description
The VASAP program begins with the intake process to determine if the participant may have a substance abuse problem and whether treatment may be required.
The education portion generally takes place over a 10-week course. However, in addition to classes, there is supervision monitoring, substance abuse treatment (when required), and any other special conditions ordered by the court. Once the VASAP program conditions are met, the DMV will be notified of completion.
Most first-time offenders will attend classes consisting of a 20-hour education program that covers alcohol, drug, and substance abuse and how it relates to driving and health. It also consists of a self-evaluation for potential substance abuse. Participants are also tested for drugs and alcohol. If the participant tests positive for alcohol or drugs, he or she will immediately be reclassified for treatment.
There are also VASAP programs for DUI offenses based on young offenders, habitual offenders, and other types of traffic violations, including:
- Intensive education for those at risk of addiction
- Treatment for participants who test positive for alcohol or drugs
- Young Offender Programs
- Habitual Offender Evaluations
- Habitual Offender Relapse Prevention
- Ignition Interlock
Cost and Location of VASAP Classes
The participant is generally responsible for paying for the cost of the VASAP program. All fees have to be paid before the VASAP program is considered complete. The costs can vary, depending on what type of program is required.
Under Virginia law, the fee for the VASAP program must be between $250 and $300. This is in addition to the education program fees, which need to be “reasonable,” and generally cost about $100. However, if the individual cannot afford the program, the court can reduce the fees. The individual may also be able to set up a payment plan. However, all the program costs and fees need to be paid before the program is considered complete.
There are a number of VASAP offices across Virginia. You can check the “Locate an ASAP Office” page to find qualifying VASAP programs near you. In Charlottesville, the nearest program offered is at the James River ASAP.
Completing VASAP After a DUI
The VASAP program is generally part of DUI sentencing. The participant needs to complete the VASAP program in order to comply with the terms of the court's sentence including any suspended jail time imposed. Completing the program is also generally required for the individual to get his or her driver's license back. Completing the program requires paying all fees and attending all classes and treatment sessions.
VASAP sessions are mandatory. If you have to miss a session or class, you should contact your case manager as soon as possible. Failing to show up may be reported for lack of compliance. Failing to complete the VASAP after a DUI can mean a revocation of your privilege to drive beyond the initial suspension period imposed by the court and in certain instances active jail time.
Charlottesville DUI Defense Lawyer
The VASAP can help you get your license back after a drunk driving conviction in Virginia. However, if you have not been convicted of a DUI, fighting the criminal charges may mean you won't lose your license in the first place. Avoiding a criminal conviction can save you time and money and the hassle of getting by without a vehicle. Contact me today for a free consultation.