Traffic Virginia Field Sobriety Test Jury Instruction Lawyers Arlington County

Traffic Virginia Field Sobriety Test Jury Instruction Lawyers Arlington County

Max v. Commonwealth of Virginia
Facts:

In the early morning hours of October 29, 2006, officer of the Arlington County Police Department found appellant, unconscious, reclined in the driver’s seat of a car with its engine running in a school parking lot. Officer determined that appellant had slurred speech, was unsteady on his feet, and had bloodshot eyes. He asked appellant to take field sobriety tests, and appellant agreed to do so. However, appellant refused to attempt it, stating he thought officer wanted to make fun of him. Appellant also refused to attempt the heel-to-toe test and the alphabet test and told officer he had no education and therefore could not perform the alphabet test. Appellant spoke in a soft voice but was belligerent, and repeatedly threatened officer, stating he “prayed that officer’s wife and kids would die within three days.” After talking with appellant for approximately 15 minutes, officer arrested him for traffic offense of DUI. After the trial court denied appellant’s motion to strike the Commonwealth’s evidence, the jury found appellant guilty of DUI.

Traffic Virginia Field Sobriety Test Jury Instruction Lawyers Arlington County

Traffic Virginia Field Sobriety Test Jury Instruction Lawyers

Issues:
  • Whether the trial court erred in not granting his proffered jury instruction defining operating a motor vehicle?
  • Whether the jury erred in finding that the evidence sufficient to convict appellant of DUI in violation of Code § 18.2-266?
  • Whether the trial court erred at the sentencing phase of his bifurcated jury trial by admitting DMV record into evidence?
Discussion:

1) Whether the trial court erred in not granting his proffered jury instruction defining operating a motor vehicle?

The instruction granted by the trial court fully and fairly covered the principles of law relevant to the question of whether appellant operated the car in which he was found, intoxicated and while the engine was running. We conclude the trial court did not err in refusing to grant appellant’s proffered jury instruction.

2) Whether the jury erred in finding that the evidence sufficient to convict appellant of DUI in violation of Code § 18.2-266?

The evidence at trial proved appellant was in his car and was intoxicated, that the key was in the ignition switch of his car, turned to the on position, and the car’s engine was running. From this evidence, the jury could reasonably conclude appellant was in actual physical control of the car, and was “operating” it within the meaning of Code § 18.2-266. Accordingly, we find the jury did not err in finding the evidence sufficient to convict appellant of DUI in violation of Code § 18.2-266.

3) Whether the trial court erred at the sentencing phase of his bifurcated jury trial by admitting DMV record into evidence?

The court held that “The term “prior traffic record,” within the meaning of Code § 46.2-943, is defined as “the record of prior suspensions and revocations of a driver’s license, and the record of prior convictions of traffic offenses described in Code § 46.2-943. A DMV record is admissible evidence of a defendant’s prior traffic record. Accordingly, when the jury found appellant guilty of DUI, Code § 46.2-943 authorized the admission of his DMV record into evidence during the sentencing phase as evidence of his prior traffic record. The Code § 19.2-295.1 notice requirements do not apply to the admission of a defendant’s prior traffic record into evidence pursuant to Code § 46.2-943. Accordingly, we conclude the trial court did not err by admitting appellant’s DMV record into evidence.”

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Article written by A Sris

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Disclaimer:

These summaries are provided by the SRIS Law Group. They represent the firm’s unofficial views of the Justices’ opinions. The original opinions should be consulted for their authoritative content.