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 From an emotional standpoint, a case where someone is accused driving under the influence and killing another person is one of the toughest.  With the victim, you usually have someone who did not deserve to die.  They are often young, in the prime of their lives.  They are usually also close to the driver.  The victim is often a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or sibling of the accused.  Unfortunately, that person is not available to express forgiveness to the driver.
As for the driver, you often have a person who has never been in trouble in his life.  He may be college educated, have a great job, and a loving family.  But for this horrible incident he would have continued to be an upstanding citizen.
Recently, a San Jose woman pled guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter after hitting and killing a 79 year old grandmother.  She is waiting to be sentenced by a Santa Clara County judge.  Her maximum possible sentence is 12 years in the state prison.  In fact, the judge is precluded from granting this woman probation unless he finds “unusual circumstances” where the interests of justice require it.  According to statements, the family of the victim has forgiven the defendant, and believes that the victim would forgive her as well.  Unfortunately, California DUI sentencing law provides somewhat less opportunity for the Court to forgive her. 

As a former prosecutor, I can tell you that, regardless of the outcome, nobody wins in these cases.  Regardless of what side you are on there is nothing but tragedy in these cases.  An innocent victim loses her life, and a contrite survivor is cast into the hell of the California prison system.  

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Dawn D. Barber, a high-ranking Newport News police official admitted that she was driving drunk on Interstate 64 in Hampton last summer, but she is now appealing her conviction.

Barber is a former assistant police chief who was demoted to captain following her DUI conviction in Virginia and is actively trying to appeal her DUI case.

On August 16, 2008, Barber was pulled over at approximately 9:40 PM after a Virginia State Police Trooper said she was weaving in traffic and almost hit another vehicle on I-64 near North King Street.

Barber told the trooper that she drank a “Texas-size” margarita at a restaurant about 30 minutes prior to being pulled over.  According to the state trooper, Barber did not do well on sobriety tests and a breath test showed a blood alcohol content of 0.12 percent.

In an article posted on the Dailypress.com, Barber was quoted as saying, “of course I regret it.  I take full responsibility.”  She made this comment after being found guilty at a hearing in Hampton General District Court in November.

Barber’s appeal is being heard in Hampton Circuit Court.  In her appeal, she contends that her case should have been dismissed because a judge would not accept a legal maneuver that would have given her the opportunity for a lesser conviction of reckless driving instead of DUI.  According to Barber’s attorney, the judge was required under state law to accept the plea.

The Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is requesting a jury trial in Barber’s case and has stated that the judge did nothing wrong.

Barber’s motion for dismissal is scheduled for April 13 and her trial is supposed to start May 26.

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