Vermont’s DUI Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI in Vermont.

Vermont prohibits impaired persons from operating or being in actual physical control of a vehicle. The definitions of impairment and operation are set by statute and can vary depending on the type of substance ingested, the type of vehicle driven, and even the driver's record.

This article explains in simple terms what a prosecutor must prove to convict a driver of driving under the influence (DUI) in court. For those facing DUI charges, this article also outlines the possible penalties for a DUI conviction.

Vermont's DUI Laws

To convict a driver of a DUI in court, prosecutors must prove the driver was operating or in actual physical control of a vehicle:

In other words, a DUI conviction can be based on BAC or actual impairment.

What It Means to be in "Actual Physical Control" of a Vehicle Under Vermont's DUI Laws

Operation of a vehicle is apparent in most DUI investigations as the officer often witnesses the person driving. But under the definition of actual physical control, it's possible to be convicted of a DUI without actually putting a vehicle in motion.

Vermont statutes define actual physical control as the ability to exert control over a vehicle. Relevant considerations in determining whether a driver was in actual physical control of a vehicle might include things like where the offender was sitting, where the keys were at, and whether the driver engaged any of the vehicle mechanisms. However, a person need not be actively driving or even awake to be convicted of a DUI in Vermont.

Proof of Intoxication for a DUI Offense in Vermont

Under Vermont law, a driver whose ability to operate has been diminished or impaired in the slightest degree is considered to be "under the influence." At a criminal trial, the prosecutor might have the arresting officer, and possibly an expert witness, testify to prove that the driver was stumbling, disoriented, or otherwise affected by drugs or alcohol.

A driver can also be convicted of DUI if he or she has an unlawful BAC. A "per se DUI," as it's often called, doesn't require proof of actual impairment. While the threshold is set at .08% for most drivers, a BAC of .04% or more for commercial drivers and .02% or more for bus drivers can result in a DUI conviction.

Holding a physician's prescription for an intoxicating substance is not a defense to an intoxicated driving charge.

Penalties for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI in Vermont

The penalties for a DUI conviction generally vary based on the number of prior convictions. All DUI convictions within the driver's lifetime are counted so long as at least one of the priors occurred within the last 20 years.

Jail and Fines for Vermont DUI Convictions

Generally, a first or second DUI conviction will be charged as a misdemeanor, but a third offense will be charged as a felony.

The chart below outlines the range of jail time and fines for a first, second, and third DUI conviction in Vermont.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense


Up to 2 years

Up to 2 years (minimum 60 hours jail or 200 hours community service)

Up to 5 years (minimum 96 hours jail)


Up to $750

Up to $1,500

Up to $2,500

Substance Abuse Evaluation and Treatment for Vermont DUI Offenders

Judges can order any person convicted of DUI to complete a drug and alcohol screening. The purpose of this screening is to diagnose any addiction or underlying substance abuse issues that the offender might have and to recommend a treatment plan. The judge will generally adopt this treatment plan as part of sentencing. Screening is mandatory for offenders with prior DUIs.

Any time served at an inpatient treatment facility can be counted toward the minimum jail sentence for a DUI conviction.

Vermont DUI Probation

After serving the minimum jail period or the alternative community service requirement, offenders will often be placed on probation for the remainder of the jail term. During this time, probationers are required to comply with any treatment program requirements, refrain from criminal activity, and be subject to monitored sobriety, which may include random drug and alcohol tests.

Vermont's Enhanced DUI Penalties for an Excessive BAC

A second or subsequent DUI involving a BAC of .16% or more will result in a DUI conviction, followed by a three-year alcohol restriction. During this time, the driver will be prohibited from operating any vehicle with a BAC of .02% or more. Violations are charged as DUI offenses.

Vermont Felony DUI Penalties

As stated above, a third or subsequent DUI conviction will be charged as a felony offense, but aggravating factors like injuries and deaths can also elevate a DUI to a felony.

Vermont's Habitual DUI Designation

A driver with at least three prior DUI convictions (including one within the last 20 years) can be charged with a felony DUI and face up to ten years in prison, a maximum $5,000 in fines, and mandatory treatment. At least 192 hours must be served in prison before probationary release.

Vermont's Aggravated DUI Law

A DUI will be considered "aggravated" and charged as a felony if the impaired driver caused injury or death to another person. An injury DUI will result in five to 15 years in prison and $5,000 in fines. A fatality DUI carries up to $10,000 in fines and five to 15 years in prison.

License-Related Penalties for Vermont DUI Offenses

A driver arrested for DUI will typically face license suspension or revocation. The suspension duration generally depends on the number of prior DUI-related incidents as well as the driver's cooperation with testing.

License-related penalties can result from a DUI arrest and/or conviction.

Vermont's Implied Consent Law

Vermont's "implied consent" law specifies that all persons lawfully arrested for a DUI are deemed to have given consent to a chemical test of their breath, saliva, or blood. These tests are used to determine the presence and concentration of any impairing substances. Drivers may choose to withdraw this consent and refuse a chemical test request, but doing so can lead to certain penalties.

Refusing a Chemical Test in Vermont

When a driver refuses to take a chemical test, the officer will submit a report to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles (CMV). The CMV will then suspend the driver's license for:

  • six months for a first offense, and
  • 18 months if the driver has a prior DUI-related suspension.

Also, prosecutors can use the fact that a driver refused testing in court while trying to prove a DUI charge.

In Vermont, a refusal of a chemical test can actually be charged as a DUI offense if the offender has a prior DUI conviction or if the driver caused injury or death to another person. The prosecutor must generally prove that the accused was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle and that the officer had probable cause to believe the accused was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If convicted, the refusal offense will carry the same penalties as a standard DUI.

Failing a Chemical Test in Vermont

If a driver submits to testing and produces an unlawful BAC, the officer will forward a report to the CMV. After reviewing the driving record, the CMV will suspend the driver's license for:

  • 90 days for a first offense, and
  • 18 months for a repeat offense

The BAC test result will also be sent to the prosecutor for use in criminal court.

License Revocation for DUI Convictions in Vermont

All DUI convictions result in license penalties and are reported to the CMV. The CMV will suspend the driver's license for:

  • 90 days for a first offense (one year if aggravated DUI)
  • 18 months for a second offense, and
  • indefinitely (revoked) for a third or subsequent offense.

Prior to reinstatement, drivers must prove completion of the alcohol education or treatment program ordered by the judge and successful use of an ignition interlock device (IID) for up to 18 months. For drivers suspended indefinitely, completion of a rehabilitative treatment program and holding an IID restricted license for three years without violation are required for reinstatement.

Suspension periods arising from the same DUI incident will all run together. In other words, a driver suspended for a test refusal and a conviction will only face the longer of the two.

Getting a Hardship License During a Vermont DUI Suspension

After a hard suspension period, drivers are generally eligible to apply for a restricted license. The hard suspension must be at least 30 days for a first offense, 90 days for a second offense, and one year for a lifetime suspension. Approved applicants will be able to operate during the suspension period but only in vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device.

Vermont's Underage DUI (Zero-Tolerance) Laws

In Vermont, drivers who are under 21 years of age are prohibited from driving with a BAC of .02% or more. Often called a "zero-tolerance" violation, drivers who are caught violating this rule will face license suspension and treatment requirements.

An underage DUI with no prior offenses results in a six-month license suspension. The driver's license will be suspended until the driver turns 21 if he or she has a prior offense. All zero-tolerance offenders are required to complete the state's alcohol and driving program.

Underage drivers who are caught operating a vehicle with a BAC of .08% or more or while "under the influence" as defined above can also be charged with a standard DUI.

Talk with a Vermont DUI Lawyer

A Vermont DUI is a serious crime, and those facing charges should consult with an attorney immediately. A qualified attorney can review your case, let you if there are any viable defenses, and advise you on the best course of action. Consult with a local attorney regarding your rights and options.

Talk to a DUI Defense attorney
We've helped 115 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you