SCOTUS decision could impact DUI convictions - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

SCOTUS decision could impact DUI convictions

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If someone gets drunk and gets behind the wheel tonight, it may be tougher to convict them than it used to be, and the reason why is causing a lot of controversy.

The problem comes after a Supreme Court decision has made it more difficult for prosecutors to submit drug and alcohol tests as evidence. There is no doubt that police officers keep a close eye on locations like this as people attempt to drive home, with perhaps too much to drink. But while this court ruling won't impact arresting drunk drivers, it could make it harder to convict them.

As police across Virginia step up enforcement hoping to keep drunk drivers off the roads, a Supreme Court decision could make the job of making those charges stick a bit harder.

"We are very concerned about it," said Chris Konschak, the Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The high court's ruling could force prosecutors using blood alcohol content as evidence to call the scientists conducting the test to the stand. A huge burden for commonwealth's attorneys who generally rely on only a lab report.

"In some parts of the state they are not seeing it as a problem, yet when we talk to commonwealth's attorney in other parts of the state they see it as a huge problem," Konschak said.

Senator Ken Cuccinelli a candidate for attorney general believes the state can't wait. He thinks governor Tim Kaine should call for a special session to fix the problem immediately.

"We've got to get our prosecutors a little more flexibility and some tools to protect their prosecutions or we are going to be walking some of these drunk drivers and these drug offenders," said Cuccinelli.  

But his opponent delegate Steve Shannon, thinks dragging the legislature into town is an expensive knee-jerk fix.

"We can deal with the issue, just as comprehensively, just as quickly without having to spend 30 thousand dollars a day in taxpayer money," said Shannon.

A complex and difficult problem that without a solution could only increase the threat of drunk driving deaths.

Governor Kaine's office told us today that no one is taking the ruling lightly, but that his legal team is exploring what options the governor could take administratively before making taxpayers foot the bill for an expensive, special, legislative session.

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