In an on-going effort to keep our citizens apprised of any and all legislative changes with DUI laws in West Virginia, The Wagner Law Firm, West Virginia’s only exclusive DUI Defense Firm, owned and operated by West Virginia DUI Attorney, Harley Wagner, wants to take this Blog opportunity to update my fellow citizens on recent changes to West Virginia DUI laws that were voted into law by our 2015 West Virginia legislature, signed by Governor Tomblin and to which will take effect June 1, 2015.
WV Code, 17C-5-2, a.k.a. West Virginia’s DUI statute, will have the following changes:
• WV Code 17C-5-2(a)/(b) – DUI Homicide / DUI Causing Death. The possible penalty will no longer have the current two levels, that of the felony level reckless disregard, which is a heightened level of factual requirement (i.e. going 80 on the roadside of the road with your headlights off), and if convicted subjected the citizen accused to a two to ten year penitentiary sentence and that of the misdemeanor level, simple negligence, without the heightened reckless disregard standard which is currently 90 days to one year in the regional jail if convicted. The new law taking effect June 1, 2015, eliminates the reckless disregard and simple negligence levels and treats both levels the same, while also raising the penalty if convicted from the current two to ten year penitentiary sentence to that of a three to fifteen year penitentiary sentence. The $1,000 to $3,000 mandatory fine remains the same.
• WV Code 17C-5-2(c) – DUI w/ Injury. The current law is that if a citizen is convicted of driving under the influence and causing injury to another person, whether serious or mild injury, either one, is guilty of a misdemeanor and subjected to a possible penalty of twenty-four (24) hours up to one year in the regional jail and a mandatory $200.00 to $1,000.00 fine. The new law separates serious bodily injury (substantial risk of death, serious or prolonged disfigurement, prolonged impairment of health or prolonged loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ) and minor bodily injury (substantial physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition). Serious bodily injury will now be a felony level offense that if convicted exposes the citizen accused to a potential penitentiary sentence of two to ten years and a mandatory fine of $1,000 to $3,000. Minor bodily injury will remain a misdemeanor level offense that if convicted exposes the accused citizen with a potential sentence of not less than twenty-four hours up to one year in the regional jail and a mandatory fine of $200 to $1,000.
• WV Code 17C-5-2(l) – DUI 3rd offense. The current law of felony DUI 3rd offense, whereby if convicted, and the citizen has two prior DUI convictions anywhere in the United States within ten years of the instant arrest date and prior offense date, is subjected to a possible one to three in the state penitentiary and a discretionary, non-mandatory fine of $3,000 to $5,000. The new law, if convicted, raises a felony 3rd offense to a possible sentence of two to five years in the state penitentiary with the discretionary fine remaining the same.
• All remaining aspects of WV Code 17C-5-2 will remain the same for 2015 and the first-half of 2016.
• All aspects of WV Code 17C-5-2b –a.k.a. The Deferral Program- will remain the same for 2015 and the first half of 2016.
• WV Code 17C-5A-2 Hearing; revocation; review. This aspect of the DUI laws of the state of West Virginia, as pertaining to license administrative hearings, makes crystal clear that the West Virginia Rules of Evidence SHALL apply at license administrative hearings just as they do in the criminal courts of West Virginia as related to a citizen being charged with DUI. *This was the single biggest change to the DUI laws and statutes in the state of West Virginia from the 2015 legislative session.