July 30, 2013
UPDATE: After a nearly 12-hour bench trial Tuesday, an Albemarle County judge has found Cynthia Neff guilty of driving under the influence.
Neff, the former Albemarle County democratic party vice chair, was found guilty of DUI in Albemarle County General District Court in February following the October 2012 incident on Pritchett Lane.
Her appeal in circuit court Tuesday returned the same verdict.
"I'm just disappointed, that's all," said defense attorney Corinne Magee.
During the marathon bench trial, Magee and attorney Andre Hakes argued there was not sufficient evidence to convict the former Albemarle County Board of Supervisors candidate.
But following closing arguments, Albemarle Circuit Court judge Cheryl Higgins said she found Neff "guilty beyond reasonable doubt."
The defense said Neff's driving was consistent with that of an average driver on a rural road at nearly 2 a.m., but Higgins said it was "much more extreme."
Higgins said she observed Neff swerve 17 times within three minutes while reviewing the police dashboard video.
Neff was given four field sobriety tests, failing all of them.
The defense team blamed her poor performance on her age, heavy weight and the fact that "her feet hurt."
The judge noted Neff was unable to pass the tests that required no physical demands.
Neff's breath test returned a BAC of 0.09. The legal limit to drive in Virginia is 0.08.
"This case I think was one in which you had two very skilled, very capable defense attorneys who were willing to explore some very cutting edge defenses, and that's why we had a full day bench trial as opposed to something that took maybe a lot less time," said assistant Commonwealth attorney Matthew Quatrara.
The sentence includes license suspension and installation of an interlock device. A 30-day jail sentence was suspended. The judge also ordered Neff to pay a $250 fine and complete an alcohol program.
The sentence is pending an appeal.
Neff has until 2 p.m. on August 15 to file an appeal.
"That has to be Ms. Neff's decision, and once we consider all of the rulings of the judge, we'll make that decision," said Magee.
July 30, 2013
Former Democratic candidate for the Albemarle Co. Board of Supervisors, Cynthia Neff, was in Albemarle Co. Circuit court Tuesday morning for a bench trial.
Neff was arrested back in October of 2012 for driving under the influence. The officer smelled alcohol coming from her and gave her a field sobriety test. Neff failed the tests administered and was arrested for driving under the influence. She was later charged with a DUI.
Her defense is trying to prove that the breathalyzer exam was not accurate. Their expert witness who works with breathalyzer tests explained to the court that people who take the breath exam can have a higher alcohol count than a blood exam if they smoke. Neff is a smoker.
The defense also wants to prove that the arresting officer should not have been suspicious of Neff’s driving. According to the defense the officer explained that Neff was swerving back and forth while driving, before he pulled her over. The defense also explained that the road she was driving on did not have lines.
The court is expected to hear more testimony from the arresting officer as well as other expert testimony from the Commonwealth.