Vermont DUI Laws: An Overview of the Laws, Fines and Penalties

Related Articles

In Vermont, driving under the influence (DUI) is defined as driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, according to 23 Vermont Statutes Annotated (VSA) Ch. 013 Section 1201. Vermont defines driving as operating, attempting to operate or being in actual physical control of any vehicle on a highway. An individual may argue as affirmative defenses to a DUI charge that they had no intention of placing the vehicle in motion and they had not placed the vehicle in motion while under the influence of alcohol.

Penalties for a First Vermont DUI Offense

Penalties for a first offense of drunk driving include incarceration (or jail time) for up to two years, a fine up to $750 and 90-day driver’s license suspension, according to 23 VSA Ch. 013 Section 1210. An individual may be eligible for an ignition interlock restricted driver's license (RDL) after they have served a 30-day waiting period. The driver is required to maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) on the vehicle for six months after the sentencing date, according to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) ignition interlock program FAQ. If the RDL is permanently revoked, the DMV will not consider the individual for license reinstatement until one year after the driver's license suspension date.

Penalties for a Second Vermont DUI Offense

Penalties for a second DUI offense, with the second offense occurring within 20 years of the first, include incarceration for up to two years, a fine up to $1,500 and 18 months driver’s license suspension. The minimum period of incarceration is 60 days in jail, 200 hours of community service or successful completion of a residential alcohol treatment program.

An individual may be eligible for an ignition interlock RDL after they have served a 90-day waiting period. They must maintain an IID on the vehicle for 18 months from the sentencing date. If the RDL is permanently revoked, the DMV will not consider the individual for license reinstatement until two years after the suspension date.

When a driver’s BAC level is proven to be 0.16 percent or more, and the driver is convicted of a second or subsequent DUI, they may not drive a vehicle for three years after their DUI conviction with a BAC of 0.02 percent or above, according to 23 VSA Ch. 013 Section 1201. If a driver with a second or subsequent DUI is found driving with a BAC of 0.02 percent or above, this is considered a DUI violation, and the driver will be charged with a third DUI offense.

Penalties for a Third Vermont DUI Offense

Penalties for a third offense, with at least one DUI occurring within the past 20 years, include up to five years of incarceration, a fine up to $2,500 and a lifetime driver’s suspension. The minimum period of incarceration is 100 hours of imprisonment, 400 hours of community service or successful completion of a residential alcohol treatment program.

An individual may be eligible for an ignition interlock restricted driver's license after they have served a one-year waiting period. The driver must maintain an IID on the vehicle for three years from the sentencing date. If the RDL is permanently revoked, the DMV will not consider the individual for license reinstatement until four years after the suspension date.

Penalties for a Fourth Vermont DUI Offense

Penalties for a fourth offense, with at least one DUI occurring within the past 20 years, include up to 10 years of incarceration and a fine up to $5,000. The offender is required to serve at least 192 consecutive hours of incarceration. This time may not be suspended, deferred or served as a supervised sentence. The exception is credit for a sentence of imprisonment may be received for time served in a residential alcohol treatment facility if the offender successfully completes the program, according to 23 VSA Ch. 13 Section 1210.

Ignition Interlock Device Restricted Driver's License

In Vermont, the BAC limit for an ignition interlock device is preset at 0.02 percent. An individual is not automatically granted the right to apply for a restricted driver license, according to the Vermont DMV. Their first step must be to contact the DMV by phone. Department staff will review the individual’s driving record and send a packet of information regarding their eligibility for the RDL program. This packet includes a list of reinstatement/eligibility requirements, an RDL application and a list of IID manufacturers.

In order to obtain an RDL, an individual must complete the Impairment Driver Rehabilitation Program (IDRP). The four steps of the IDRP are evaluation, education, treatment and completion of an exit interview, according to the Vermont Department of Health Impaired Driver Rehabilitation Program. An individual with a first or second DUI may participate in the intensive IDRP, which is 10 hours over two days, or the non-intensive IDRP, which is 10 hours over four weeks.

Driving With License Suspended (DLS) Program

Vermont’s Civil DLS diversion program allows an individual to regain their driver’s license while paying off fines and fees. A participant works with Vermont Court Diversion staff to develop a contract including a payment plan. This plan is presented to the Vermont Judicial Bureau for review, according to Vermont Court Diversion DLS program. Vermont does not provide for a hardship or work driver’s license, according to DMV driver’s license suspension information.

Vermont’s Implied Consent Law

An individual who operates, attempts to operate or is in actual physical control of a vehicle on a highway in the state of Vermont is deemed to have given consent to an evidentiary breath test for alcohol and a blood test for any other drug in their system, according to 23 VSA Ch. 013 Section 1202. A law enforcement officer can administer a blood test if breath testing equipment is not reasonably available, the officer has reason to believe the person cannot give a sufficient sample of breath for testing, or the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person is under the influence of drugs other than alcohol.

The penalty for a first refusal is a six-month driver’s license suspension; the penalty for a second refusal is an 18-month driver’s license suspension; and the penalty for a third or subsequent refusal is lifetime suspension. The individual may be eligible to apply for Vermont’s total abstinence reinstatement program after three years.

Driver’s License Reinstatement

A driver can apply for license reinstatement if they pay all fines, finish the suspension period, do not have pending criminal charges and comply with all court orders, according to the Vermont DMV. For a first DUI, the individual must complete an alcohol and driving education program and receive a successful assessment.

For a second DUI, the individual must complete an alcohol and driving rehabilitation program and obtain proof of substantial progress in therapy.

For a third DUI, the individual must complete an alcohol and driving rehabilitation program, obtain proof of substantial progress in therapy and show proof of three years of abstinence and compliance with use of an ignition interlock device (IID).

Underage Vermont DUIs

For drivers under 21, underage drunk driving is defined as driving with a BAC of 0.02 percent or above, according to 23 VSA Ch. 013 Section 1216. For a first violation, the individual will suffer a driver’s license suspension for six months. For a second or subsequent violation, the individual will suffer a driver’s license suspension until they turn 21 or for one year, whichever is longer.

A minor can be charged with a standard DUI if their BAC is 0.08 percent or above. An individual with a first offense of underage DUI who elects to operate a vehicle under an RDL is not eligible for reinstatement unless they operate under the RDL for six months. An individual with a second or subsequent offense who elects to operate a vehicle under an RDL is not eligible for reinstatement unless they operate under the RDL for one year or until they reach age 21, whichever is longer.

Immobilization and Forfeiture Proceedings

Vermont can impound, or immobilize, and seize the vehicle of a DUI offender, according to 23 VSA Ch. 013 Section 1213c. The court is required to provide notice to the owner of the vehicle about an immobilization or forfeiture proceeding. The hearing regarding the vehicle is a civil, not criminal, proceeding, and the court may consider any undue hardship that immobilization or forfeiture would cause to a person other than the defendant.

After an individual is issued an immobilization or forfeiture order and during their period of driver’s license suspension or revocation, the individual shall not operate, purchase, lease or rent a motor vehicle. If the individual violates this law, they face up to two years of incarceration and a fine up to $1,000.

Level of DUI Offenses in Vermont

In Vermont, a first or second DUI is classified as a misdemeanor. A third DUI is classified as a felony. Vermont considers a misdemeanor to be an offense punishable by a maximum of two years in jail, according to VSA Title 13. (Vermont’s definition of a misdemeanor is different from that of many states. Typically, a misdemeanor is considered to be a crime punishable by a maximum of one year in jail.)

Vermont considers a felony to be an offense punishable by more than two years in prison. Vermont does not have different classes of misdemeanors with set penalties; the penalty for a misdemeanor is specific to the offense.

DUI Court in Vermont

Vermont’s DUI court is called a DUI treatment docket, according to the Vermont Judiciary. These courts are organized by region. In order to participate, an offender must be convicted of a second DUI with a BAC of at least 0.15 percent or a third or subsequent DUI offense. The suspended portion of the individual’s sentence should last at least 15 months and at most two years.

In order to participate in a DUI treatment docket, individuals must attend substance abuse treatment and court hearings, and follow program guidelines.

Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle

Vermont terms the offense of reckless driving as “negligent operation,” according to 23 VSA Ch. 13 Section 1091. Negligent operation is defined as failing to use ordinary care when operating a motor vehicle. An individual who commits a first offense of negligent operation faces penalties that include a maximum of one year in jail, a fine up to $1,000 and a driver’s license suspension, the length of which is determined by the court.

An individual who commits a second or subsequent offense faces penalties that include a maximum of two years in jail, a fine up to $3,000 and a court-determined period of driver’s license suspension.

A charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle is preferable to a DUI charge because a conviction of negligent operation will not count as a prior DUI conviction.

Grossly Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle

An individual who operates a motor vehicle in a “grossly negligent” manner will be charged with grossly negligent operation. This offense is still preferable to a DUI, but carries significantly higher penalties than simple negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Grossly negligent operation involves a greater level of disregard for other drivers.

Penalties for a first offense of grossly negligent operation include up to two years in jail, a fine up to $5,000 and a period of driver’s license suspension to be determined by the court. Penalties for a second or subsequent offense of grossly negligent operation include up to four years in prison, a fine up to $10,000 and a period of driver’s license suspension to be determined by the court.