Driving after drinking is DUI or driving under the influence. Like all other states of the US Virginia also measures driving under the influence of blood alcohol concentration or BAC levels. The BAC test confirms if a person is under the influence of a certain drug or not. If a person is under the influence, he will face severe charges under the traffic DUI laws of Virginia. The percentage of BAC for punishment depends on the age and type of license a person has. In any case, driving under the influence is a class 1 misdemeanour in Virginia. It is punishable by law by a fine or prison. Virginia is one of the states where road accidents due to driving under the influence happen a lot. Back in the year 2011, there were more than 200 road accidents which resulted in death and were caused by DUI. It is why the law is quite strict about traffic rules and regulations in VA. Make sure that you have a lawyer to help you out if you face such charges. Find a Stafford Virginia DUI lawyer who will help you with your case. If you do not get legal help, you may have to face severe charges.
DUI laws in VA
Every state has different laws for driving under the influence. Every state measures the drug influence differently. The percentage of BAC is not similar in every state. If you live in Stafford Virginia, you should know the BAC concentration according to the VA traffic laws. In Virginia, if an officer pulls you for DUI and he finds that the percentage of BAC is higher than following percentages he will arrest you.
If you are 21 years or older and you have a BAC 0.08%, you will face charges for DUI. If you are younger than 21 years and you have BAC 0.02%, you will face charges for DUI. If you are a commercial driver and have a BAV level of 0.04%, the officer will arrest you for DUI or DWI.
Penalties for DUI in Stafford Virginia
If you are 21 years or older and you are driving under the influence, you may have license suspension for seven days and have to pay a fine of $250 to $300. If your BAC levels are extremely high, you will have to go to jail for additional five days. It is the punishment you will get if it is your first offence. For a second offence, the punishment increases. You may have t pay the fine of $500 and spend ten days in jail. The court may suspend your license for 60 days depending on the BAC levels.
Whatever the case, you should take help from a lawyer. You can make a plea for suspending the charges against you in court. If you take help from the most experienced Stafford Virginia DUI lawyer, he will make sure that you do not pay the full charges. The expert lawyers will help you reduce the charges against you.
The following is a case that is illustrative of a case:
On appeal, we review the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth. Commonwealth v. Hudson, 265 Va. 505, 514, 578 S.E. 2d 781, 786 (2003). That principle requires us to “discard the evidence of the accused in conflict with that of the Commonwealth, and regard as true all the credible evidence favorable to the Commonwealth and all fair inferences that may be drawn therefrom.” Kelly v. Commonwealth, 41 Va. App. 250, 254, 584 S.E. 2d 444, 446 (2003).
So viewed, on June 29, 2002, appellant struck an automobile driven by Barry Childers while Childers was turning left at an intersection. As a result, Heather Watson, a passenger in Childers’ vehicle, was killed. Volunteer rescue workers treated appellant at the scene, and appellant told one of them that he had come from a bar and had been drinking “lots and lots and lots.” Appellant was transported to a local hospital emergency room. Appellant’s hospital admission records show that appellant stated he had consumed “between 12-24 beers” and “more than 18 beers” prior to the accident.
After the accident, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office dispatched Deputy Chris Coderre to the hospital to arrest appellant. Appellant was waiting to undergo a Computed Axial Tomography scan when Coderre located him. Coderre said he could clearly smell alcohol in the room that appellant was in, the smell being especially obvious in the hospital’s sterile environment. After the scan, Coderre spoke to appellant and informed him that he was under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. Coderre read the implied consent law to appellant, explained the procedure, and asked him to submit to a blood test, to which appellant agreed. Coderre watched a hospital lab technician draw two vials of appellant’s blood, then seal, package, tape, and initial them. Once the blood was drawn, Coderre informed appellant of his right to an independent analysis of the blood sample, asked him if he wished to have it done, and, if so, to sign the form authorizing the test. Coderre offered appellant the form and his pen, upon which appellant stated, “I’m too f–ed up. I can’t sign sh–.” Coderre kept the form with a vial of appellant’s blood and took it with him when he left the hospital. The form and blood sample remained locked in the trunk of Coderre’s police cruiser until the following Monday when Coderre submitted it to the Department of Forensic Sciences for testing. An analysis of this blood sample showed appellant’s blood alcohol content was .21. The hospital’s blood toxicology report indicated that appellant’s blood alcohol content was .24 or .25. On July 1, 2002, the Commonwealth charged appellant with driving under the influence, pursuant to Code § 18.2-266, and aggravated involuntary manslaughter, pursuant to Code § 18.2-36.1.
At a pretrial hearing, the trial court suppressed the implied consent law blood sample analysis and precluded the Commonwealth from using the presumption of intoxication pursuant to Code § 18.2-269. The trial court based its ruling on a finding that the Commonwealth had failed to arrest appellant within the statutorily mandated period after the incident as required by Code § 18.2-268.2. 2The court also ruled that appellant had not properly been provided the form requesting independent analysis of the blood sample. The court therefore dismissed prosecution of charges under Code § 18.2-266 but allowed the Commonwealth to proceed with prosecution under Code § 18.2-36.1 (aggravated involuntary manslaughter). After a jury trial, appellant was convicted of aggravated involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
- Implied Consent Law Procedural Violations Do Not Require Dismissal of an Aggravated Involuntary Manslaughter Charge
An aggravated involuntary manslaughter conviction under Code § 18.2-36.1 requires a finding that the defendant was driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs, as specified in clauses (ii), (iii) or (iv) of Code § 18.2-266. The implied consent law governs procedural steps for conducting breath and blood tests for the prosecution of driving under the influence of alcohol charges.
Appellant argues that a prosecution for aggravated involuntary manslaughter is inherently a prosecution for driving under the influence of alcohol; thus, the implied consent law procedures apply. 3At the time of appellant’s arrest, these procedures required the arresting officer to give the accused a form indicating how he could obtain an independent analysis of the blood sample drawn. 4Appellant argues that because he did not receive the independent analysis form, the trial court should have dismissed the aggravated manslaughter charge.
We disagree. Even if failure to comply with the implied consent law procedural requirements does not forbid a prosecution for aggravated manslaughter, blood test results are not required for a conviction under either Code §§ 18.2-266 or 18.2-36.1.
Neither Code § 18.2-268.6 nor any of the other implied consent law statutes refer to Code § 18.2-36.1. Code §§ 18.2-268.2, -268.3, -268.4, -268.5, -268.8, -268.9 and -268.10 include specific language that they apply to violations of Code §§ 18.2-266 or -266.1 or a similar ordinance, 7but none of those code sections mention Code § 18.2-36.1. 8Only Code § 18.2-268.3 applies its provisions to an additional statute, specifically, Code § 18.2-51.4, maiming as a result of driving while intoxicated. Additionally, Code § 18.2-51.4 specifically provides that the implied consent law provisions apply upon arrest for a violation of that code section. Had the General Assembly intended to require the implied consent law procedures and its related statutory provisions for a prosecution under Code § 18.2-36.1, it would have specifically provided so; however, it did not. See Jordan v. South Boston, 138 Va. 838, 844-45, 122 S.E. 265, 267 (1924) (“Courts cannot read into a statute something that is not within the manifest intention of the legislature as gathered from the statute itself. To depart from the meaning expressed by the words is to alter the statute, to legislate and not to interpret.” (internal quotations and citation omitted)). The omission, in this context, makes it apparent that the legislature did not require those procedural hurdles.
Furthermore, blood test results are not required to prove intoxication for prosecution under clauses (ii), (iii) or (iv) of Code § 18.2-266 , and, by extension, therefore, are not required for prosecution under Code § 18.2-36.1. See Oliver v. Commonwealth, 40 Va. App. 20, 24, 577 S.E. 2d 514, 516 (2003) (“Test results from a breath or blood test are not necessary or required to prove driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”). Only clause (i) of Code § 18.2-266, the per se statute predicating guilt on blood alcohol content alone, requires blood test results. Code § 18.2-36.1 does not require that the Commonwealth establish a violation of clause (i) of Code § 18.2-266; it only requires a violation of clauses (ii), (iii) or (iv). If the General Assembly intended to require a blood test for prosecution for involuntary manslaughter, it would have tied the involuntary manslaughter statute to clause (i) and not just clauses (ii), (iii), and (iv). Thus, “‘the result of a blood analysis is but auxiliary proof which may tend to corroborate evidence of the objective symptoms of being under the influence of alcohol.'” Thurston v. Lynchburg, 15 Va. App. 475, 483, 424 S.E. 2d 701, 705-06, 9 Va. Law Rep. 635 (1992) (quoting Brooks v. City of Newport News, 224 v. 311, 315-16, 295 S.E. 2d 801, 804 (1982)). In this case, there was sufficient evidence of objective symptoms that would allow a fact finder to conclude that appellant was under the influence of alcohol: (1) appellant admitted to consuming twelve to twenty-four beers; (2) Coderre and two other witnesses smelled a “strong odor” of alcohol when in the appellant’s presence; (3) when asked if he had been drinking, appellant answered yes, “lots and lots and lots”; and, (4) at the hospital, appellant stated that he was “too f–ed up” and couldn’t sign anything. Such evidence is enough to support a finding of intoxication, and, therefore, a violation of Code § 18.2-266 (ii), (iii) or (iv), without the blood test.
- The Court Did Not Err in Admitting the Hospital Toxicology Report
Appellant argues that, because the Commonwealth failed to affirmatively show a reliable foundation for the hospital toxicology report, it was error for the court to admit it into evidence. We disagree.
Appellant concedes that Code § 19.2-187.02 10addresses the hearsay nature of the hospital records, but contends that it does not overcome or eliminate the requirements that admission of scientific evidence must be based on a proper foundation. However, “whether the foundation is sufficient is a question within the sound discretion of the trial judge. If the judge finds the foundation sufficient, the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be accorded the evidence are matters within the province of the fact finder.” Essex v. Commonwealth, 228 v. 273, 285, 322 S.E. 2d 216, 223 (1984). In this case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the hospital toxicology report.
Appellant also contends that in spite of the statute allowing admission of hospital blood tests, those tests must also meet the requirements of Code § 18.2-268.5, which relate to the handling of blood samples taken pursuant to the implied consent law. 0 Blood tests performed by medical personnel in a hospital emergency room are not subject to the requirements of Code § 18.2-268.5. That statute applies only to blood drawn under the implied consent law. The statute begins, “for purposes of this article . . . ,” which clearly and strictly limits its application only to driving under the influence of alcohol prosecutions.
- The Court Did Not Err in Denying Appellant’s Proposed Jury Instructions
Appellant argues that the trial court erred by denying three of his proposed jury instructions, “W,” “Y,” and “Z.” He contends that the denial of these instructions prevented him from presenting his theory of the case to the jury. Instruction “W” describes three degrees of negligence: ordinary, willful, and criminal. Instructions “Y” and “Z” raise the issue of whether Watson’s death was directly caused by appellant’s actions.
1 “A reviewing court’s responsibility in reviewing jury instructions is ‘to see that the law has been clearly stated and that the instructions cover all issues which the evidence fairly raises.'” Darnell v. Commonwealth, 6 v. App. 485, 488, 370 S.E. 2d 717, 719, 5 v. Law Rep. 11 (1988) (quoting Swisher v. Swisher, 223 v. 499, 503, 290 S.E. 2d 856, 858 (1982)). When reviewing a trial judge’s decision refusing a proffered jury instruction, “‘the appropriate standard of review requires that we view the evidence with respect to the refused instruction in the light most favorable to the proponent of the instruction.'” Hartigan v. Commonwealth, 31 v. App. 243, 257, 522 S.E. 2d 406, 412 (1999) (quoting Boone v. Commonwealth, 14 v. App. 130, 131, 415 S.E. 2d 250, 251, 8 v. Law Rep. 2516 (1992)).
The jury instructions approved by the trial court in this case are the same as those upheld by this Court in Hall, 32 v. App. 616, 529 S.E. 2d 829. In Hall, we noted that these instructions “substantially tracked the language of Code § 18.2-36.1 and the Virginia Model Jury Instructions” and that they “adequately stated the elements of the offense.” Id. at 635, 529 S.E. 2d at 839. As in Hall, the trial court was justified in approving an instruction that clearly and simply stated the elements of the crime and the findings that were necessary for a conviction.
The trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to admit instruction “W,” as it would not have clarified any element of the law and could have confused the jury by introducing additional issues not present in the law under which appellant was prosecuted. Instructions “Y” and “Z” were properly refused as another instruction already dealt with the issues of causation. These additional instructions would have been needlessly redundant. “It is not desirable to multiply instructions. Moreover, any instruction that is given should relate to the specific evidence in the case and should not incorrectly state the law or mislead the jury. . . . The trial judge may properly refuse any instructions that are misleading or redundant.” Diffendal v. Commonwealth, 8 v. App. 417, 423, 382 S.E. 2d 24, 26-27, 6 v. Law Rep. 69 (1989) (internal quotations and citations omitted). We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in deciding to refuse the instructions.
- The Evidence Was Sufficient As a Matter of Law
3 When the sufficiency of the evidence is challenged on appeal, “‘we presume the judgment of the trial court to be correct’ and reverse only if the trial court’s decision is ‘plainly wrong or without evidence to support it.'” Kelly, 41 v. App. at 257, 584 S.E. 2d at 447 (quoting Davis v. Commonwealth, 39 v. App. 96, 99, 570 S.E. 2d 875, 876-77 (2002)); see also McGee v. Commonwealth, 25 v. App. 193, 197-98, 487 S.E. 2d 259, 261 (1997) (en banc). This means the jury’s verdict cannot be overturned on appeal unless no “‘rational trier of fact'” could have come to the conclusion it did. Kelly, 41 v. App. at 257, 584 S.E. 2d at 447 ); see also Seaton v. Commonwealth, 42 v. App. 739, 746, 595 S.E. 2d 9, 13 (2004); Pease v. Commonwealth, 39 v. App. 342, 355, 573 S.E. 2d 272, 278 (2002) (en banc) (“We let the decision stand unless we conclude no rational juror could have reached that decision.”), aff’d, 266 v. 397, 588 S.E. 2d 149 (2003). A reviewing court does not “ask itself whether it believes that the evidence at the trial established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” Jackson, 443 U.S. at 318-19 (emphasis in original and citation omitted). We must instead ask whether “any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.” Kelly, 41 v. App. at 257, 584 S.E. 2d at 447 (quoting Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319) (emphasis in original and internal quotations omitted); see also Hoambrecker v. City of Lynchburg, 13 v. App. 511, 514, 412 S.E. 2d 729, 731, 8 v. Law Rep. 1918 (1992). “‘This familiar standard gives full play to the responsibility of the trier of fact fairly to resolve conflicts in the testimony, to weigh the evidence, and to draw reasonable inferences from basic facts to ultimate facts.”‘ Kelly, 41 v. App. at 257-58, 584 S.E. 2d at 447 (quoting Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319).
Appellant argues that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to prove: (1) that he was intoxicated; (2) that he caused Watson’s death; and (3) that his conduct was gross, wanton, and culpable. There is sufficient evidence in the record on each of these elements to support the jury’s decision to convict.
Appellant first argues that the Commonwealth did not prove he was intoxicated. On the contrary, the hospital toxicology report revealed that appellant’s blood alcohol content was .24 or .25, approximately three times the legal limit in v. The Commonwealth presented expert testimony on the mental and physical effects that normally accompany a blood alcohol content greater than .20. There was evidence that appellant asked after the accident, “What did I hit?,” admitted he did not remember the accident, that he consumed between twelve and twenty-four beers, and that after the accident he stated that he was “too f–ed up” and couldn’t sign anything. Witnesses also testified that appellant was mumbling, disoriented, and had a strong odor of alcohol about his person. Finally, the Commonwealth presented evidence that there was a lack of skid marks at the scene of the accident, from which the jury could conclude that appellant’s driving behavior at the time of the accident was wanton and reckless and was affected by his intoxicated state. Thus, the record contains sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that appellant was intoxicated.
Appellant next argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he caused Watson’s death. He contends that the Commonwealth only proved that he struck the vehicle Watson was riding in and that evidence was insufficient to prove that her death was caused by his intoxication. Appellant claims that Childers’ testimony was inconsistent and that Childers was at fault because he should have seen and yielded to appellant’s vehicle. The Commonwealth presented evidence that Childers’ vehicle had the right-of-way and that appellant ran a red light. Childers testified that he had received a green arrow before he began turning his vehicle. The Commonwealth also presented an expert in traffic signals who testified that if Childers received a green arrow, appellant would have faced a red light at the time of the accident. Appellant presented no evidence that would prevent any reasonable juror from believing the testimony of Childers or the expert witness. The lack of skid marks – indicating appellant’s failure to stop or slow down before the impact – could also lead the jury to conclude that appellant’s failure to notice the other car before striking it caused the accident. Therefore, the record contains sufficient evidence to allow the jury to conclude that appellant’s driving while intoxicated caused Watson’s death.
Appellant also argues with regard to causation that Childers’ testimony is inconsistent with a finding that he had the right-of-way. Appellant contends that because Childers did not see appellant’s car before entering the intersection, he could not have been attentive to the traffic signal. However,
All of the authorities agree that contributory negligence has no place in a case of involuntary manslaughter and if the criminal negligence of the accused is found to be the cause of the death, he is criminally responsible, whether the decedent’s failure to use due care contributed to the injury or not. Bell v. Commonwealth, 170 v. 597, 616, 195 S.E. 675, 683 (1938).
Only if the conduct of the deceased amounts to an independent, intervening act alone causing the fatal injury can the accused be exonerated from liability for his or her criminal negligence. Mayo v. Commonwealth, 218 v. 644, 647, 238 S.E. 2d 831, 833 (1977). In such case, the conduct of the accused becomes a remote cause. Delawder v. Commonwealth, 214 v. 55, 57, 196 S.E. 2d 913, 915 (1973).
Hubbard v. Commonwealth, 243 v. 1, 14, 413 S.E. 2d 875, 882, 8 v. Law Rep. 1675 (1992). Therefore, the conduct of another party plays no part in the case, unless that conduct is proven to be an independent, intervening cause, rendering the defendant’s negligence so remote it ceases to be a proximate cause of the accident. Appellant did not prove such in this case.
Finally, appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient for the jury to find him guilty of gross, wanton, and culpable conduct. Appellant relies on Jetton v. Commonwealth, v. App. 557, 561, 347 S.E. 2d 141, 144, 3 v. Law Rep. 107 (1986), in which this Court held that in order to find gross, wanton, and culpable conduct, multiple factors are required other than intoxication to show such conduct. Appellant asserts that the only relevant conduct to be considered is that he ran a red light. He contends that single act is so common an occurrence that it fails to rise to the level of gross, wanton, and culpable conduct.
While aggravated involuntary manslaughter convictions often involve multiple acts exhibiting gross, wanton, and culpable conduct, a single act is sufficient to establish such conduct. In Hall, this Court upheld an aggravated involuntary manslaughter conviction upon facts that are substantially similar to the instant case. Hall, 32 v. App. at 616, 529 S.E. 2d at 829. In that case, the appellant was convicted after his truck collided with a motorcycle, killing the cyclist. Id. at 621, 529 S.E. 2d at 832. In Hall, the only conduct attributed to the appellant was having a blood alcohol content greater than .20 and running a red light. This Court ruled that “the Commonwealth’s evidence was competent, was not inherently incredible and was sufficient to prove appellant drove his vehicle in a ‘gross, wanton and culpable’ manner.”
Neither intoxication nor running a red light alone may be sufficient to establish gross, wanton, and culpable conduct. However, the combination of appellant’s extreme intoxication, ignoring traffic signals and running a red light, striking a vehicle without slowing down or braking and asking, “What did I hit?,” is sufficient evidence for a jury to find gross, wanton, and culpable conduct.
Accordingly, the record clearly provides sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that appellant knowingly engaged in conduct “so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard of human life,” which proximately caused the accident and resulted in Watson’s death.
We hold that the trial court did not err in permitting prosecution of the aggravated involuntary manslaughter charge under Code § 18.2-36.1, admitting the hospital toxicology report, or by refusing appellant’s proffered jury instructions. We also conclude that the record includes sufficient evidence for a jury to convict appellant of aggravated involuntary manslaughter. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
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