Virginia Beach will soon change the way DUI cases are handled. Currently, Virginia Beach DUI cases are handled by arresting officers rather than prosecutors, at least for most first-time DUI offenses. But come June 30, all DUI cases, even first offense cases, will be handled by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s (CA) Office.
Despite Virginia’s tough DUI laws (including an all-offender interlock law), a DUI conviction rate above 90%, and the fact that Virginia Beach is among the safest cities of its size, Virginia Beach has the highest rate of DUI cases in Virginia, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle. In fact, 10% of the state’s DUI cases occur in Virginia Beach. In 2013 alone, the city had more than 2,300 drunk driving arrests.
Stolle believes that having police officers handle DUI cases is part of the problem. For starters, every time the state enacts a new bill, it makes the process of handling DUI cases more complex than police officers can handle. Macie Pridgen with the CA’s Office further reports that while police officers can testify in the DUI cases they handle, they can’t argue the law if the defendant or defense lawyer challenges the DUI.
However, having prosecutors handle DUI cases and legal arguments that arise will help prevent DUI offenders from slipping through the cracks and, in turn, help decrease drunk driving. At least that’s what Stolle hopes will result from the change in the way Virginia Beach DUI cases are handled.
While Pridgen states that handing over DUI cases to the CA’s office will make the cases move more efficiently through the court, some defense attorneys said it could slow the process and add 1,400 cases a year, as reported by local news station WAVY-TV. To combat inefficiency, Stolle plans to establish one courtroom dedicated to DUI cases to allow the CA’s Office to send multiple prosecutors to court to handle DUI cases.
Residents of Virginia Beach can learn more about the new changes at a Public Safety Night at Mount Trashmore on June 27 at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.