Tougher drunken driving penalties in Virginia next month

WASHINGTON – Repeat drunken driving offenders are the focus of stiffer penalties that take effect in Virginia July 1.

Anyone convicted of driving or boating under the influence of alcohol for a third time — or for the second time after a first incident that resulted in maiming injuries or a fatality — will face a mandatory one-year prison sentence and $1,000 fine.

Kurt Erickson, of the Washington Regional Alcohol program, says he’d like to see the laws get even tougher.

“We’re hoping legislation like this that specifically targets repeat offenders, which are those groups that are over-represented in fatal car crashes where alcohol is a factor, can make a difference,” he says.

Erickson says the law also has been changed to eliminate a time factor — previous law looked only at DUI convictions within a 10-year period. The new law counts all convictions, no matter how far back they go.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles says nearly 30 percent of highway fatalities in the state in 2012 involved alcohol, accounting for 229 deaths.

There were 28,719 DUI convictions last year, a 2-percent increase from 2011.

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