The Vermont DUI Guide

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 Driving Under the Influence

23 VSA § 1201 (2011)

Actual Physical Control

Criminal Refusal

Civil License Suspension




Report of a MV Crash


DMV Record Request



I just got arrested for a Vermont operating under the influence charge.  What happens next?


ISSUE ONE:  The Vermont Implied Consent / Civil License Suspension Proceeding:  Under Vermont law, every person who operates, attempts to operate, or is in actual physical control of any vehicle on a highway in the State of Vermont is deemed to have given consent to an evidentiary (breath or blood) test of that person's breath for the purpose of determining the person's alcohol concentration or the presence of other drug in the blood.  This is known as Vermont's implied consent law. 


Pursuant to Vermont's implied consent law, your Vermont drivers license (or your right to drive in Vermont if you're not a Vermont licensed driver) was most likely suspended for anywhere from 90 days (failure) to six months (refusal) for failing or refusing a breath test if this is your first offense.  A second offense typically results in an 18 months suspension.


Read your paperwork carefully.  If you wish to request a hearing to challenge the suspension before the district court, you must mail or deliver your request for a hearing within seven days.  For a first offense, your suspension will go into effect on the 11th day following your arrest unless you request a hearing.


A preliminary hearing on your challenge will be held within 21 days of your arrest.  Typically, this will be the same as the date of your first appearance in DUI criminal case.


Speak to your Vermont attorney for more information about contesting your civil license suspension.



ISSUE TWO:  The Vermont DUI / OUI / DWI Criminal Case:  Separate from the administrative license proceeding is the criminal charge for operating a vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor or other substance.  Under Vermont law, you may not operate, attempt to operate, or be in actual physical control of any vehicle on a highway:

(1) when your alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent or more, or 0.02 percent or more if the person is operating a school bus (sometimes known as a per se DUI); or

(2) when you are under the influence of intoxicating liquor; or

(3) when you are under the influence of any other drug or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug to a degree which renders you incapable of driving safely; or

(4) when your BAC is 0.04 percent or more if you are operating a commercial motor vehicle.

Vermont law also prohibits a person who has previously been convicted of a DUI from refusing a law enforcement officer's reasonable request for an evidentiary test where the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person is operating a vehicle under the influence.  This is sometimes known as the criminal refusal statute.

A person under the age of 21 who operates, attempts to operate or is in actual physical control of a vehicle on a highway when the person's BAC is 0.02 percent or more, commits a civil traffic violation and subject to the following sanctions:

(1) For a first violation, the person's license or privilege to operate shall be suspended for six months.

(2) For a second or subsequent violation, the person's license or privilege to operate shall be suspended until the person reaches the age of 21 or for one year, whichever is longer.

Important:  The implied consent / administrative license revocation proceeding and the criminal DUI case are completely separate from one another. 


Will my Vermont driver license be suspended or revoked?


RELATED TO ISSUE ONE ABOVE:  Your Vermont driver license (or your right to drive in Vermont if you do not have a valid Vermont license) may be suspended in the implied consent civil license suspension proceeding for failing or refusing a chemical test for alcohol and / or drugs.  This suspension ranges from three to six months for a first offense


Again, you may challenge this proposed civil suspension if you make a timely request.

RELATED TO ISSUE TWO ABOVE:  If you are convicted of the DUI charge, your Vermont license (or your right to drive in Vermont if you don't have a valid license) for between 90 days and life depending on your DUI / DWI / OUI history.


What happens if I get caught driving while my license is suspended?


Driving while your license is suspended for DUI conviction should be avoided, as it is a separate criminal offense.  Penalties include a fine and possible jail time.


I really need to drive.  Will I be able to get a restricted license / work permit / occupational / conditional / probationary permit?

Vermont does not authorize any type of hardship license if you are suspended for a driving under the influence offense.

What is the difference between a DUI, DWI, OVI, OWI, OUI etc.?


These terms are all acronyms that refer to the crime commonly known as "drunk driving."  Different states have different names for this offense.  For example, in Wisconsin the acronym OWI (operating while impaired / intoxicated) is used.  Oregon uses the term DUII (driving under the influence of an intoxicant).  New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and other states use the term DWI (driving while intoxicated).  Maine and Massachusetts use the term OUI (operating under the influence).  Connecticut and numerous other states refer to the charge as DUI (driving under the influence. 


Vermont law refers to: operating vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor or other substance.  This is often shortened to either DUI, OUI, or DWI.

Is a DWI offense in Vermont a misdemeanor or felony charge?

In Vermont, a first or second DUI conviction within a 10 year period is a misdemeanor charge.  If you are convicted of a third or subsequent DUI within a 10 year period, it is a felony offense.

What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of an Vermont DUI / DWI charge?


Upon conviction of an Vermont driving under the influence offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including substance abuse (drug / alcohol) treatment.  A range of penalties is set forth below: 





  • fine of under $750;
  • 90 day license suspension;
  • jail possible but not required.
  • fine of under $1500;
  • 18 month license revocation;
  • 200+ hours of community service or 60+ hours of jail time.


  • fine of under $2500;
  • lifetime license revocation;
  • substantial custody time possible.
Penalties are significantly greater if you cause serious bodily injury or death while operating a vehicle under the influence.

Will my defense lawyer be able to plea bargain / negotiate my Vermont DUI / DWI charge down to another (lesser) offense?

Possibly.  Unlike some states, there is no anti-plea bargaining statute for DUI charges in the State of Vermont.  A Vermont operating under the influence charge may be reduced or dismissed under some limited circumstances.  Your lawyer may work to explore a possible plea bargain on your behalf.

Will a Vermont DUI / DWI conviction go on "my driving record?"

Yes.  A conviction for operating a vehicle under the influence will go on your Vermont driving record and remain there indefinitely.

Just how much jail / prison time will I have to do if I am convicted of a DUI in Vermont?

The amount of jail time received will depend on a number of different factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

•  your prior driving record especially your DUI conviction history (including any DUI's / DWI's / OVI's / OWI's / OUI's outside of Vermont);

•  your level of intoxication / impairment;

•  whether there was an accident / collision involved;

•  whether there was injury (especially serious injury) to another person;

•  which Vermont district court your case is in;

•  which judge sentences you;

•  whether there was a passenger especially a child passenger in your car.


I am licensed to drive in a state other than Vermont and I was cited for a DUI / OUI / DWI in Vermont.  Will my driver license be revoked or suspended?

Vermont only has the authority to revoke your right to drive in the State of Vermont.  However, Vermont and 44 other states and Washington D.C. have adopted an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact."  Vermont will report a driving under the influence conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming the home state has also adopted the Compact).  Your home state will then generally take action to suspend or revoke your drivers license.

This also works in reverse.  If you are a Vermont licensed driver and you are convicted of a DWI / OUI / DUI in another state, Vermont will suspend your license if it learns of your conviction. 

Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car?


An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol measurement device that is connected to a motor vehicle ignition system.  In order to start the vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the IID which then measures alcohol concentration.  Vermont does not currently require the installation of ignition interlock devices in vehicles driven by persons convicted of a DUI offense.  Many states require an IID following a DUI conviction, but Vermont does not.

What will a Vermont DUI / OUI / DWI do to my ability to keep my liability insurance?

If your insurance company finds out about your DUI conviction one of two things are likely to happen.  Either your Vermont insurance company will raise your rates or your policy may be cancelled or not renewed.  If you are convicted of a DUI offense in Vermont, your insurance company will learn of your DUI because you will have to proof of Financial Responsibility Insurance with the Vermont DMV.

What is Financial Responsibility Insurance?

Financial Responsibility Insurance (usually filed as an SR-22) is a document certifying proof of financial responsibility (liability insurance) submitted by an insurance company licensed to do business in the State of Vermont.  Vermont requires an Financial Responsibility Insurance filing for any DUI conviction.  Failure to maintain the Financial Responsibility Insurance / SR-22 will result in the suspension or re-suspension of your driver license or driving privileges

Are there special concerns for licensed pilots who get an Vermont OUI / DWI / DUI?


Yes.  The FAA has special reporting requirements for certain Motor Vehicle Actions including Vermont DUI convictions and implied consent civil license suspensions.  Learn more about the FAA requirement here.

I missed my criminal court appearance.  What do I do now?

Failing to appear (FTA) for court is to be avoided.  At a minimum, the Vermont court typically issues a summons or warrant for your arrest (sometimes known as a bench warrant).  You may also face a new, additional criminal charge related to the FTA.  Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.  Sometimes, your only option is to turn yourself in on the warrant.  A new court date will then be scheduled.

Can I represent myself in court on my Vermont DUI / OUI / DWI or other criminal charge?

Yes.  You have an absolute constitutional right to represent yourself on any criminal charge no matter how serious including an Vermont DUI.  Keep in mind that DUI defense is a complicated area of the law as shown by the information here.  If you cannot afford to hire your own attorney, you definitely should apply for a court appointed attorney.  You have no right to court appointed counsel at any civil license suspension hearing.

Copyright 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009



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