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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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At least five arrests were made at three Virginia Beach checkpoints for driving under the influence on St. Patrick’s Day.  Police set up these checkpoints as a way to catch drunk drivers on the roads.

"I view the checkpoints as proactive rather than reactive," Officer J.M. Baker said. "They make people think, maybe there's going to be a checkpoint on the way home, maybe I should drink responsibly."

St. Patrick’s Day, along with July 4th and Labor Day, are some of the biggest days for DUIs, even bigger than New Year’s Eve, according to Sgt. Scott Wichtendahl, who is the head of the Selective Enforcement Team that specializes in DUI and traffic.  The Selective Enforcement Team made eight DUI arrests this St. Patrick’s Day, which was more than New Year’s Eve.

Police officers at the St. Patrick’s Day checkpoints stopped 328 vehicles between 8:00 PM and 1:00 AM.  The DUI checkpoints were set up in the 2400 block of Shore Drive, on General Booth Boulevard and on the I-264 West access ramp on South Independence Boulevard.  Checkpoints are usually set up in areas where there is a high concentration of bars.

During the stop, drivers were asked for their driver’s license and registration and officers were looking for any sign of impairment.  Some drivers were also asked to complete field sobriety tests.  Many of the police officers are experts in identifying drunk drivers based on their behavior.

Category: Keyword Search: Virginia DUI arrest

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Kansas City Chiefs cornerback David Macklin was arrested for drunk driving in Newport News, Virginia on March 13, 2009. 

State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller confirmed Macklin was driving a 2005 BMW west on J. Clyde Morris Boulevard and was initially pulled over around 3:30 a.m. Friday morning for illegal window tint. 

Reports indicated that a police officer approached the vehicle and the smell of excessive alcohol was apparent.  The Virginia State trooper proceeded to give Macklin several field sobriety tests, in which he performed poorly.

“Further investigation determined that the driver’s blood alcohol level was in excess of Virginia’s legal limit of .08,” stated trooper JR Street.  Macklin’s blood alcohol test actually showed a level of .11 BAC.

Macklin’s hometown is Newport News, Virginia, where he played basketball and football for Menchville High School.  He went on to play football at Penn State and was drafted into the NFL in 2000.  Last season he played cornerback for the Kansas City Chiefs. 

The charges Macklin was arrested for are having illegal window tint and DUI, a first-time misdemeanor offense.  He was held at the Newport News city jail and was released after he posted a $2,500 bond.  His hearing is being held Monday, March 16 at the Newport News General District Court. 

Macklin’s arrest is one of many that has occurred during this St. Patrick’s Day holiday weekend.  Virginia is cracking down on dangerous drivers.  The cities of Richmond, Lynchburg and several surrounding jurisdictions in the state of Virginia have launched campaigns to keep the roads safe this St. Patrick’s Day. Every year, hundreds of people die in alcohol related accidents, and several cities in the sate of Virginia are trying to do their part in decreasing this statistic.

Category: Keyword Search: Virginia DUI arrest

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A 41-year-old man from Halifax was recently charged with DUI (driving under the influence), after he hit a Halifax County school bus.  He has also been charged with hit-and-run.

Virginia State Trooper K.R. Martin charged Glenn H. Spell of Chatham Road following the accident.  Spell sideswiped a school bus operated by Willie Francis Jr., 43, of South Boston.  The bus only sustained minor damages, including a black streak along the side of the vehicle.  However, Spell did not stop after hitting the school bus, but later returned to the scene of the crash on Thompson Store Road where he had struck the bus at 4:40 AM.

There was no significant damage and no one was hurt in the accident, but school transportation officials still responded to the call from the bus driver.  When the school transportation officials arrived to the accident scene, Spell had already returned, but left again when state police were called.  Spell was later identified as the driver and was charged with DUI and hit-and-run.

In Virginia, the consequences for DUI are severe.  A first time DUI offense can result in a court fine of up to $2,500 and a jail sentence.  A DUI conviction will go on your criminal record and could affect your insurance premium, future employment and your family’s wellbeing.  Virginia courts hear so many DUI cases, that they frequently encourage DUI defendants to quickly admit to guilt.  If you are facing a DUI charge in Virginia, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately.

Category: Keyword Search: Virginia DUI arrest

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If you have been arrested for DUI in Virginia, chances are you will be charged with a misdemeanor, not a felony.  Even though both are considered criminal charges, a misdemeanor carries a lesser punishment.

A DUI conviction that is classified as a misdemeanor in Virginia may still carry a short jail sentence and fine, but the punishment is far less severe than a felony offense. If your DUI conviction is tried as a felony, you could be facing a state prison term of more than a year, in addition to a fine, license revocation and other consequences.

Every state is different in regards to how DUI convictions are classified.  In Virginia, a DUI offense is a misdemeanor unless it is the third offense within ten years.  A third DUI offense will be prosecuted as a Class 6 felony.  A fourth DUI offense will require mandatory time in jail of one year.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is particularly tough on convicted drunk drivers.  The section of the Virginia Code that addresses DUI is over 40 pages in length.  Even a first time DUI offense in Virginia can result in jail time, a fine of up to $2,500, a license revocation of one year and mandatory attendance of a DUI educational program provided by the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP).  If you are given a sentence enhancement, you could be facing an even worse punishment.

The article, When is DUI a Felony Offense, has more information regarding when DUI is charged as a felony versus a misdemeanor.

Category: Keyword Search: Virginia DUI arrest

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On January 30, 2009, two vehicles were totaled and two men injured following an accident on Rt. 621 in Warsaw.  The crash occurred at approximately 9:00 PM on Chestnut Hill Road when a BMW sedan and pickup truck struck head on.

According to Virginia State Trooper Jene Brooks, who was in charge of the crash scene initially, the two men sustained minor injuries and refused medical treatment.  The men were released.

At the time of the crash, Franklin Taylor of Caret was driving a 1991 BMW 525i and Sherland Balderson of Warsaw was driving a 1988 Ford F-150 pickup truck.  The accident was described as an “angled impact” between the BMW and Ford F-150, according to Brooks.

“It appears that the BMW rode the guard rail and then popped off veering into the other vehicle,” said Brooks.

Following the crash, Taylor was charged with DUI and arrested, according to Virginia State Trooper Joseph Benson.  Benson was the one who finished the accident report for the state police.  There have been no other charges filed in connection with the accident.

Taylor was arraigned on February 6 in Richmond County General District Court.  His hearing is set for May 1, 2009 at 9:00 AM.

Virginia has extremely strict laws when it comes to DUI convictions.  First-time DUI offenders may be fined as much as $2500 in Virginia.  If you are facing a DUI charge in Virginia, you should contact an experienced DUI attorney who can review your case and help you with your defense.

Category: Keyword Search: Virginia DUI arrest

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If you are pulled over for a suspected DUI in Virginia, there is a good chance that you will have to do a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, as part of a series of field sobriety tests.  Police officers use the HGN test in Virginia to help determine if you are intoxicated.  Even though scientists believe the HGN test is reliable, there are my factors that can alter the results.

Nystagmus is defined as an involuntary movement of the eyeball that occurs when there is a disturbance of the inner ear system or the oculomotor of the eye.  Consuming alcohol is supposed to hinder the ability of the brain to control the eye muscles, which is where the HGN test comes in to play.  The more alcohol that is consumed, the great amount of involuntary movement of the eyeball. 

During the HGN test, a police officer will be looking for movement in the eye when you look to the side.   The officer will most likely ask you to follow an object with your eyes, such as a pen or penlight.  Generally, the object is held about 12 to 15 inches from your face and at a slightly higher eye level.  It is important that the police officer is able to clearly see your eyes, if not, the results could be wrong.

There are many causes of nystagmus, besides alcohol consumption.  Neural or muscle activity, brain damage, eye strain, brain tumors, inner ear diseases and other health problems can all result in nystagmus.  If a police officer is not properly trained in administering the HGN test, the results could be skewed. 

If you have been arrested for a Virginia DUI charge, it is crucial that you contact and an experienced DUI attorney who can review the details of your HGN test and other field sobriety tests. 

The article, “The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test Used in DUI Arrests,” has more information on this topic. 

Category: Keyword Search: Virginia DUI arrest

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Albemarle County Police kicked off a campaign to nab intoxicated drivers on Super Bowl Sunday in Central Virginia.

Before the Super Bowl, Corporal Ken Richardson explained, “We are going to have heavy patrol from the roads during the time of the Super Bowl to look for intoxicated drivers.”

Albemarle County Police added seven traffic patrol units that Sunday to watch county streets before the official kickoff into the early hours of Monday morning, said Richardson.

Richardson said that they were looking for any unusual driving habits that people were doing, such as crossing the lines.

Central Virginia bars also helped out in the efforts to keep drunk drivers off the roads in Albemarle County.  Kiersten Kaufman of the Wild Wing Café in Charlottesville said that her staff was prepared to cut off fans who had enough to drink.  “We train our staff very, very well to know the signs of when someone is a little too intoxicated, and often times those signs present themselves before they’ve gotten to that point,” said Kaufman.

Some of the signs that Kaufman said to watch out for that would indicate someone had too much to drink include slurred speech, not walking properly, putting their head down or slowing down as far as drinking.

Richardson said that he hoped everyone would have come up with a plan to get home safely from Super Bowl parties.  One of the ways that people could prevent an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) was by designating a driver.

Category: Keyword Search: Virginia DUI arrest

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Over the last three years, Staunton’s law enforcement has been the most stringent by area authorities, according to statistics.  In 2006, Staunton police arrested 121 motorists and in 2007, this number jumped to 183.  Last year, there were 174 DUI arrests.

When Officer Lisa Klein, a spokeswoman for the Staunton Police Department, was asked why the number of arrests went down in 2008, she said that she thought the public was getting the message that driving under the influence in Staunton was not going to be tolerated.  “I do think people are responding.  We’ve been hitting it pretty hard,” said Klein.

According to Klein, there were no directives from top brass to target intoxicated drivers, but the fresh batch of police officers could have had an affect on the number of DUI arrests.

Staunton law enforcement has led the way in DUI arrests with a total of 478 arrests over the past three years.  Waynesboro arrested 395 suspected drunk drivers and the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office arrested 195 drivers.  Area 17 was placed first in “Operation Checkpoint Strikeforce” two of the last three years.

Miles Bobbit, director of Staunton’s Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) said that DUI referrals to his organization have been increasing by 100 per year.  He said that the agency is on track to continue that trend this year.

The financial costs of a DUI arrest are high, which include towing bills, storage fees, court costs and fines, jail costs, lost work days, VASAP expenses and increased insurance fees.

Category: Keyword Search: Virginia DUI arrest