How Long Are You Held in a Virginia Jail After a DUI Arrest?

Like all things in life, how long you are held in a Virginia jail after a DUI arrest depends on the circumstances and severity of the alleged DUI or DUI-related offense. Here’s an overview of how long you can expect to spend in jail directly after a DUI arrest but before a conviction is rendered.


After a DUI arrest, you are taken back to the police station for booking and additional chemical testing (i.e., breath, blood, or urine). You will then likely spend the night in jail.

A first- and second-offense DUI are misdemeanors, and as such, you will likely be held only up to 12 hours before the judge orders your release on your own recognizance. Your release will come after you have been to court for your arraignment either in person or via video.


When the DUI charge is more serious, you may be subject to bail (that said, each case is different, and so for first- or second-time offenders, you may be required to post bail, too). More serious DUI charges include:

  • felony DUIs, which include third or subsequent DUI arrests;
  • a DUI accident that causes serious bodily injury or fatality; and
  • DUI with a child in the vehicle at the time of the DUI.

After your arrest, you will have a bail hearing. At the conclusion of the bail hearing, the judge can decide upon four options set forth in Virginia Code § 19.2-123:

  1. recognizance – you provide a written promise to appear and to abide by the terms and conditions of release;
  2. unsecured bond – your release on an unsecured bond means the magistrate does not accept cash or require surety, but you must adhere to the terms of bail and appear in court or the bail can be revoked, you forfeit the monetary amount on the bond, and the judge can enter a judgment;
  3. secured bond – your release on a secured bond means the magistrate accepts a deposit of cash or allows a solvent surety to enter into the obligations of the bail bond, but you must still adhere to the conditions of the bail and appear in court or else the bail will be revoked, you forfeit the bond, and a judgment may be entered; or
  4. bail ineligibility – you are not eligible for bail and may be returned to jail to wait for court.

If you are eligible for bail, the bail amount will be determined based on a number of factors. Once bail is set, you must post bail or obtain a bond. Once that is completed, you are free to go but must continue to adhere to the terms of the bail and appear at court. If you do not, you will be sent back to jail.


When bail is denied, you will have to remain in jail pending trial. There are two basic reasons bail may be denied:

  1. probable cause exists that you will not appear for trial or hearing as directed, or
  2. probable cause exists that your release may pose an unreasonable danger to yourself or the public.

Usually for DUI offenders, it’s the first reason that causes bail to be denied. The second reason usually applies only to persons who committed a violent crime and the offense carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or death. 

For most persons who are arrested for a DUI in Virginia, you will likely be released the next morning (if arrested at night). Once released, if you have not yet done so, contact an experienced DUI attorney in the D.C./Virginia metro area to make sure you get the best defense available to you.

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