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Virginia’s DUI implied consent law, related laws have changed

Hundreds of new laws took effect on July 1 in Virginia, including a few relating to drunk driving. You may have heard that beer delivery is now legal, as are some higher-proof alcoholic beverages. It’s also newly legal to carry open containers of alcohol in “commercial lifestyle centers,” which are large, pedestrian friendly retail areas in physically integrated outdoor settings. In other words, you may be able to carry a margarita and shop at Stony Point Fashion Park in the near future.

Those examples should not give you the impression that Virginia is focusing less on DUI and related offenses, however. In fact, the new permissiveness in some areas has been paid for, so to speak, by additional strictness in others. What has changed?

The most important change to our DUI law is to the implied consent rule. Implied consent is a phrase intended to get across that you, by virtue of applying for a Virginia driver’s license, have implied your consent to take a breath test when a police officer tells you to. In other words, it’s unlawful to refuse a breath test because you already agreed to do so when you got your license. Most states have such a rule.

HB 2327 changes the rules on blood tests in response to a 2016 Supreme Court case called Birchfield v. North Dakota. In that case, the high court ruled that the implied consent rule only applies to breath tests, not blood tests. Therefore, there is no longer any penalty for refusing a blood test. That said, the police can still obtain a blood test with a warrant, and those warrants will be expedited.

However, the penalty for repeatedly refusing a breath test has been increased. Now, if you refuse a breath test after either having refused before or having been convicted of a DUI-related offense in the previous ten years, the new refusal is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

HB 2327 also made some changes to the legal presumption in civil lawsuits against allegedly drunk drivers.

Another law that changed was HB 2051/SB 1091, regarding the possession of marijuana. For adults, a conviction for mere possession will no longer result in the suspension of your driver’s license. Instead, the conviction will carry an additional penalty of 50 hours’ community service. This does not mean your license would not be suspended for driving under the influence of marijuana, however.

Take a look at some of the other laws that just went into effect in this story by CBS 6. If you’ve been charged with DUI or another crime and have questions, we urge you to reach out to a quality defense attorney.

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