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VA Court of Appeals Upholds Decision in DUI Manslaughter Case

What happened:

In a follow up to a story we reported in November, the Virginia Court of Appeals has ruled that the blood alcohol certificate of a Newport News man charged in the deaths of two Christopher Newport University students cannot be used as evidence at trial. However, prosecutors will be allowed to present the defendant’s blood-alcohol level at trial through witness testimony, just not the actual certificate.

The 34 year-old defendant is charged with two counts involuntary manslaughter, three counts of maiming by DUI and having two DUIs in five years for an accident that happened in December 2011. He is accused of driving the wrong way down I-64 in Hampton and plowing his Chevy Tahoe into a Ford Taurus, killing two of the five people inside the Taurus.

The legal question for the Appeals Court was whether or not state troopers placed the defendant under arrest for DUI within the three hour window required by Virginia law. The defendant claimed he was not legally charged until indictments were handed down by a grand jury in August 2012.

 

The Virginia Lawyer Perspective:   

The Court of Appeals ruled that because the defendant was not placed under arrest within the three hours, the blood certificate cannot be used as evidence. A state trooper at the scene of the accident had testified she arrested the defendant at the scene of the accident. However, according to a report in the Daily Press, in its decision the court said because the trooper did not physically restrain the defendant the scene of the crash or at the hospital and never issued a summons, there was no arrest.

When the defendant was taken to the hospital, his blood alcohol measured .21, three times the legal limit. As we reported previously, he also has a criminal history of driving while intoxicated, with convictions in 2004, 2006 and just three weeks after this fatal accident, he was convicted and sentenced to one year in jail stemming from DUI charges from September 2011.

 

Court of Appeals of Virginia, Richmond, VA


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Helpful Info:

Our firm published a guide on the wrongful death claims process in Virginia. Read it here.

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