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Court will not allow prosecutors to use some evidence in Virginia DUI case

Prosecutors recently appealed a Hampton Circuit Court ruling throwing out evidence that authorities hoped to present at trial on driving under the influence charges filed against a Newport News man. The Virginia Court of Appeals upheld the trial judge's ruling suppressing the blood alcohol certificate in the case. Virginia's implied consent law specifies procedures that must be carried out in DUI cases, and the courts ruled that authorities had not complied fully with the legal requirements of state law in arresting the man.

An officer testified in the trial court that she placed the Newport News man under arrest for DUI at the scene of a car accident December 4, 2011. However, the Virginia Court of Appeals found that the law enforcement's handling of the case did not show that the man was arrested within the three hours required in Virginia's implied consent laws.

The man is accused of being involved in a car accident where two Christopher Newport University students were killed on Interstate 64. An officer claims that the Newport News man admitted to having consumed one beer. She says that she could smell alcohol on him after the wreck. Blood samples reportedly were obtained from the defendant, and he left the hospital, without having been issued a summons.

The man was first charged with involuntary manslaughter in January 2012, and later indicted on DUI charges in August 2012.

The court rulings essentially found that law enforcement did not properly follow the implied consent procedures required under state law, and therefore ruled that prosecutors could not use the blood alcohol certificate at trial. Authorities will still be able to rely upon testimony, as the case moves forward.

In addition to two counts of involuntary manslaughter charges, the Newport News man is facing three counts of maiming by DUI, and a repeat DUI offense.

Generally, the law prohibits many things, including driving under the influence. But the legal system also imposes rules and requirements on the government to ensure that justice is not made into a sham. It is important for people accused of a crime to consider speaking with legal counsel to learn what defenses may be available in a specific situation.

Source: Daily Press, "Coucate can't be used in fatal CNU crash," Ashley Kelly, Jan. 23, 2013

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