Chesterfield administrator facing DUI charges

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The attorney for the Chesterfield educator charged with DUI plans to challenge the technology police use to nab drunk drivers.

Paul Vandemortel missed his court appearance in Richmond Wednesday morning because of a death in the family, but his lawyer explained his concerns with the state breathalyzer test Vandemortel took last month.

Paul Vandemortel's attorney is questioning the extensive breath test the Matoaca High administrator took after police arrested him for DUI and hit and run. Investigators say Vandemortel was driving drunk when he slammed into four parked cars on West Grace.

On a Saturday night in December, Richmond police say Paul Vandemortel damaged four parked vehicles. Police say the Matoaca High School administrator then drove six blocks to his home on Monument Avenue where they arrested him.

Off-camera, inside the Richmond courthouse - Vandemortel's lawyer, George Edwards - said he plans to subpoena the results of this breath test because he's concerned the technology wasn't maintained when his client was tested.

Alka Lohmann, a state forensic scientist, shows us how licensed officers use the machine.

"Prior to a subject even providing a breath sample we are certain that the instrument is functioning properly," she said.

She says no one can tamper with the automated test that's done about 25,000 times a year.

"We actually require two breath samples to be taken two minutes apart," Lohmann said.

The lowest result is what's filed with the court. Edwards won't tell us the results of Vandemortel's test, but says it is above .15 -- the legal limit is .08.

"The instruments are very accurate," said Lohmann.

Lohmann says the results of this test have never been thrown out of court. NBC12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin says even if they were prosecutors would still have a case.

"They can rely completely on their observations of the defendants driving, the fact of crashing into other automobiles, fleeing the scene of the accident, and then the officer's observations of blood shot eyes, strong heavy odor of alcohol," said Benjamin.

The defense attorney says Vandemortel wanted to reach out to the owner's of the damaged vehicles, but the attorney advised his client not to do so. Vandemortel's attorney says the Chesterfield educator is quote: "terribly remorseful".

Vandemortel is set to stand trial in March. If convicted, he faces two years behind bars and a $5,000 fine. He could also lose his license. 

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