Under the amended Virginia Code Section 18.2-266.1, drivers who are under the legal drinking age that register a blood-alcohol content of just 0.02 (which many defense attorneys refer to as “baby DUI”), one-fourth of the legal limit for adults, will face a mandatory license suspension of 12 months, up to 12 months in jail, and a maximum fine of $2,500. Until July 1, when the new law goes into effect, the minimum fine is $500 or 50 hours of community service.
The bill was introduced by Delegate William Janis (R-Glen Allen), who says that, "Harsher penalties should go to those who choose to act recklessly."
Those in support of the new law noted that the penalties under the current law are lighter than that of mere possession of alcoholic beverages. The maximum penalty for a person under the age of 21 caught drinking and driving is currently a license suspension of six months and a fine of $500. The penalties for both will become the same when the new law elevates underage drunken driving to a Class 1 misdemeanor, as is underage possession.
Virginia will join Maryland and 12 other states which have adopted zero-tolerance policies, including license suspensions of 12 months.
Over the past five years, Virginia has seen an overall increase in alcohol-related driving accidents. In 2001, there were a total of 358 alcohol-related driving fatalities, including 54 that involved victims below the legal drinking age. Last year, there were 378 alcohol-related driving fatalities with 49 that involved minors, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.