February 2, 2007
Virginia legislators are getting tough on drunk drivers and want to fix a loop hole in the law. A bill would tighten the laws around breathalizer tests.
"They could have three or four beers say just before they left a bar. They get in a car and just up at the corner they perhaps don't stop enough for a stop sign. So the police officer pulls them over" said defense attorney Scott Goodman.
He says the scenario then continues minutes or hours later down at the magistrates office where a suspect could then blow over the legal limit.
Some attorney's have successfully argued that these cases are not drunk driving. Now legislators want to change the DUI law from "while driving" to "any time after driving."
"This does close some loopholes which is a good thing from the standpoint of a prosecutor" said Commonwealth's attorney Jim Camblos.
But from the standpoint of a defense attorney it doesn't seem right.
"That's what should really be important is what the person's blood alcohol level was at the time they were driving not what time that took the test" says Goodman.
However, the test is just one piece of evidence a judge looks at when determining guilt or innocence. And some legislators say the bill is needed because there are judges who reduce drunken-driving charges to lesser offenses in these cases.
"Its a good bill because it takes away an argument that has been successful in other areas" said Camblos.
"You always have these types of bills come forward on an election year, it makes them look tough get their name in the press" said Goodman.
No figures are available on how many of the state's roughly 28,000 drunk-driving arrests a year are being reduced or have been thrown out because of the law.