If you are facing a DUI charge in Virginia, you probably feel frightened and overwhelmed. Not knowing what to expect as a first-time offender may make the whole situation that much more scary.

Familiarizing yourself with your legal options and the applicable Virginia laws can help alleviate some stress about the unknown.

What constitutes a DUI in Virginia?

DUI in Virginia for ages 21 or older means your blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or higher while driving. You may also get a DUI charge if you have a lower BAC, but your ability to drive a vehicle or boat is still impaired. If you are under 21 years old, the level for legal impairment is 0.02 percent BAC.

In order for an officer to determine if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he will pull you over and conduct field sobriety tests to check your level of intoxication. If the officer determines you are under the influence, then to convict you, the prosecutor just needs to prove your BAC was at least 0.08 percent.

In the absence of field sobriety tests and just a chemical test result of 0.08 percent BAC, the prosecutor needs to show that your ability to operate your vehicle was seriously impaired by alcohol or drugs.

What are the penalties for your first DUI conviction?

Your DUI is a first offense if it is your only DUI conviction within the last 10 years, and in Virginia, it is a misdemeanor. This means that you face a one-year license suspension and a $250 to $2,500 fine. As a Class 1 Misdemeanor, this conviction remains on your criminal record.

If you are an offender with a BAC of 0.15 percent, you may get fined $250 to $400 and have to serve a minimum jail term of five days before becoming eligible for release on probation. If your BAC is 0.20 percent or greater, you will have to serve a minimum of 10 days in jail before release on probation.

Other potential penalties include community service and the required installation of an ignition interlock device.