A year-old Virginia auto accident case continues to linger, with the prosecution waiting for court matters to be settled before taking the case to trial.
The defendant, 34, faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter, an additional three counts of maiming by DUI, and has two DUI arrests in a five-year time span.
Two roommates from Christopher Newport University were among five people riding in a car along Interstate 64 at the time of the accident. Their car was hit head-on by a wrong-way driver, allegedly the defendant.
The delay in the case stems from the question as to whether the defendant was charged with DUI in a timely manner. A state trooper testified in a hearing that she had informed the defendant that he was under arrest while in her car. By law, the defendant must be notified of DUI charges within three hours of arrest.
A grand jury indicted the man in August on various charges.
The defense attorney, however, said the man was not arrested for DUI and in fact was not charged for months for DUI. Because of that, DUI charges cannot be admitted at trial, according to the attorney. A Circuit Court judge agreed with the defense attorney. A test at the hospital following the accident indicated the man's blood-alcohol level was 0.21, nearly triple the legal threshold.
Officials in the Hampton Commonwealth's Attorney Office have said that the defendant was notified of the arrest. Handcuffs were not put on him because he was in an ambulance en route to the hospital.
The prosecutors are appealing the ruling, with the next hearing set for Jan. 25.
This technicality might not affect the case as a whole. As long as the evidence is strong to the other counts, it might not make a difference for the prosecution. Additionally, this legal infighting should not affect any personal injury lawsuits filed against the defendant. The burden of proof is less in civil cases.
Source: WAVY.com, "DUI charge up in air for fatal crash," Andy Fox, Nov. 29, 2012