Virginia is known nationally for its strict enforcement of driving while intoxicated laws, and the state is again strengthening its efforts to reduce related injuries and deaths with the launch of its third DWI enforcement squad. Per the Fairfax Times, Fairfax County is the third unit in the state to create a squad dedicated exclusively to catching those who drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The DWI enforcement squad in Fairfax County has eight patrollers and one supervisor, and the eight law enforcement officials selected to patrol were chosen in part because they had strong existing records of arresting drunk drivers. The idea behind the squad, which is made possible due to a pilot program now in its second year, is that these officers will be able to focus 100 percent of their attention on being on the lookout for drunk drivers, rather than being diverted or dispatched out to unrelated calls.
Without outside distractions, the squad will have more time to target DWI offenders, who can be charged with the crime even if they are not shown to have blood alcohol contents above the 0.08 percent legal limit. In Virginia, the decision of whether to arrest someone for DWI is at the officer’s own discretion, and a law enforcement official who believes a motorist is impaired can make an arrest even if the driver does not meet the 0.08 percent threshold.
Per the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the penalties for driving while intoxicated are harsh, and they are the same for those who operate under the influence of alcohol or drugs. First-time offenders automatically lose their licenses for a year and face fines of at least $250. Those who are arrested again for the same offense within a 10-year period lose their licenses for three years, face fines of at least $500 and must serve, at minimum, 10 days in jail.