In February of this year, the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill that imposes harsher penalties on drivers who cause injuries to others while under the influence. The governor of Virginia subsequently signed the bill into law, which means that it took effect as of July 1st. We at Madigan and Scott know that many citizens may become confused when new legislation goes into effect, and we hope that the following explanation will provide the necessary background to help you to understand how the new law may affect you.
According to WHSV News, a car crash in 2017 that seriously injured a young girl provided the impetus for the bill. Authorities assert that the driver responsible for the crash was under the influence at the time. A delegate to the General Assembly introduced the bill but gives credit to the girl's family for testifying as to the extent of her injuries during the legislative session earlier this year. The girl's family, on the other hand, credits the delegate for being a catalyst for change.
Under the new law, prosecutors can charge an alleged drunk driver who causes significant and permanent damage with a vehicle with a class 4 felony. Serious bodily injury to others who share the road with an alleged drunk driver, including pedestrians and other drivers, can now incur class 6 felony charges. Those convicted on felony drunk driving charges could face a prison sentence lasting from two to 10 years under the new law.
Legislators and supporters of the new law hope that harsher DUI penalties will serve as a deterrent to drunk driving and prevent future injuries and deaths on the road. However, since the law has only recently gone into effect, it is too early to assess its success in this regard. More information about DUI/DWI defense is available on our website.