Ever wondered about the repercussions of refusing a BAC test in West Virginia?
Whether you're a victim or a driver, understanding West Virginia’s drunk driving laws is crucial. This article delves into the facts, stats, and legal implications surrounding DUI in the Mountain State.
Driving under the influence is not only dangerous, but it can lead to severe legal consequences.
Whether you’ve been involved in a drunk driving accident or you’re merely one of the 80,000 licensed drivers in West Virginia, it’s important to understand the Mountain State’s drunk driving laws.
How common are drunk driving accidents in West Virginia?
More than 100,000 people in the United States die each year in crashes that involve an impaired driver. Unfortunately, West Virginia is not immune to drunk driving accidents.
Consider the following state facts:
|West Virginia drunk driving statistics (2019)|
|Location||Total alcohol-impaired driving fatalities||Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities per 100,000 population|
It’s not all bad news. Over the last ten years, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities have gone down 33.4 percent in West Virginia, compared to 5.7 percent nationally.
What constitutes driving under the influence in West Virginia?
In West Virginia, you can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if the result of a breath or blood test shows any of the following:
- A blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher for adults (21 and over)
- A BAC of .04 percent or higher for commercial drivers
- A BAC of .02 percent or higher for minors (under 21)
West Virginia's implied consent laws
Under West Virginia's implied consent law, any person who operates a vehicle in the state is deemed to have given their consent to a test of their blood, breath, or urine to determine BAC. Refusing such a test can result in the immediate suspension of one's driver's license, irrespective of whether they were driving under the influence.
What are the penalties for drunk driving in West Virginia?
The penalties for DUI in West Virginia vary based on the driver’s BAC level and prior offenses.
For a basic first-offense DUI charge, there is a possibility of up to 6 months in jail and fines ranging from $100-$500. Repeat offenders or those with a BAC above .15 percent face steeper penalties, including a minimum of 48 hours in jail and fines up to $1,000.
Finally, intoxicated drivers who are involved in a crash that results in death may be charged with a felony. If convicted, these individuals face a mandatory sentence of not less than two years and not more than ten years in prison, along with a fine of $1,000 to $3,000.
|West Virginia 2021 DUI arrest data|
|Total DUI cases||Total convictions||Conviction percent|
When you're harmed in a vehicle collision due to a driver who is operating their vehicle under the influence, you have the option to file an insurance claim with the intoxicated driver’s insurance company as you would in any other West Virginia car accident. However, you might want to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit against the impaired driver if:
- The driver lacks insurance,
- The settlement amount proposed by the insurance company is insufficient, or
- Your incurred damages surpass the policy limits of the driver.
Liability insurance covers incidents resulting from drunk driving, even though it’s against the law to drive impaired. However, the majority of insurance policies will NOT grant the impaired driver collision or comprehensive coverage.
To demonstrate that a driver under the influence was responsible for your accident, typically, a police report indicating their intoxicated state suffices. Should there be a dispute regarding liability, it’s advisable to consult a personal injury lawyer to support your claim.
West Virginia's dram shop laws
Dram shop laws allow for establishments that serve alcohol (like bars or restaurants) to be held liable in certain situations where they've served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who then causes harm.
While West Virginia doesn't have a traditional dram shop statute, West Virginia Code Section 60-3A-25 prohibits establishments from selling alcohol to any person who is underage or visibly intoxicated. What’s more, West Virginia Code Section 55-7-9 provides that any person injured by the violation of any statute may recover damages.
The bottom line?
If you or a loved one is injured by a drunk driver, you may be able to recover damages from the establishment that served the drunk driver. An experienced West Virginia attorney can help you explore this potential legal option.
FAQs about drunk driving accidents in West Virginia
Once you’ve taken care of your immediate health concerns, call the police so they can investigate the crash and draft a police report. Be sure to let the responding officer know if you suspect the other driver is intoxicated.
In addition to calling the police, it’s a good idea to look for witnesses and collect their contact information. You should also take photographs of the scene, including anything that might support your claim that the other driver was intoxicated (beer bottles in or near the vehicle, for example).
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has compiled some common signs of driving while under the influence to help you spot a drunk driver:
- Quick acceleration or deceleration
- Weaving or zig-zagging across the road
- Driving anywhere other than on a road designated for vehicles
- Almost striking an object, curb, or vehicle
- Stopping without cause or erratic braking
- Drifting in and out of traffic lanes
- Signaling that is inconsistent with the driver’s actions
- Slow response to traffic signals
- Straddling the center lane marker
- Driving with headlights off at night
- Driving slower than 10 mph below the speed limit
- Turning abruptly or illegally
- Driving into opposing traffic on the wrong side of the road
West Virginia follows the modified comparative negligence rule. If you're less than 50 percent at fault, you can recover damages, but they'll be reduced by your percentage of fault.