DUI Virginia Habitual Offender Bifurcated Trial Lawyers Craig County
Commonwealth v. Thomas
Defendant appealed from a judgment of the Circuit Court of Craig County (Virginia), which convicted him of driving under the influence, a third or subsequent offense within five years in violation of Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-266, and of driving after being declared an habitual offender in violation of Va. Code Ann. § 46.1-387.8.
Whether the trial court erred by admitting evidence of Defendant’s prior DUI convictions during the guilt stage of the trial and by admitting evidence of his refusal to perform field sobriety tests
Following a bifurcated trial, defendant was convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), a third or subsequent offense within five years, and of driving after being declared an habitual offender. The court found that the trial court did not err by admitting evidence of defendant’s prior DUI convictions, but did err in admitting evidence of defendant’s refusal to submit to field sobriety tests. The court noted that Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-943 prohibited the introduction of the entire traffic record during the guilt stage of trial but held that evidence of the prior DUI convictions was admissible because prior DUI convictions did not constitute the “traffic record” as contemplated by § 46.2-943 where the offense charged was a subsequent offense of DUI. The court held that evidence of a refusal to submit to field sobriety tests, when used as evidence that defendant refused because he believed he might fail, violated defendant’s right against self-incrimination under Va. Const. art. I, § 8. The court found that the trial court erred by admitting evidence of defendant’s refusal and that the error was not harmless. The court affirmed defendant’s conviction for driving after being declared an habitual offender, reversed the conviction for driving under the influence, and remanded for a new trial
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Article written by A Sris
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