Dashcam video of Virginia legislator’s DUI traffic stop released; no charges filed

Updated: Jan. 29, 2020 at 6:29 PM EST
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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WWBT/WDBJ7) - Newly-released dashcam video shows a state lawmaker getting off with a warning after failing a breathalyzer at a traffic stop.

Delegate Chris Hurst admitted he had been drinking when police pulled him over early Sunday morning.

Virginia State Delegate Chris Hurst (D-12) has issued a statement after being pulled over Sunday by a police officer who saw him swerving and speeding, but he was not charged.

“I am very sorry this happened and take full responsibility for exercising such poor judgment. This mistake is not something I take lightly. The work before us in the General Assembly this session is more important than ever before. I look forward to continued efforts to build a better 12th District and Commonwealth of Virginia,” Hurst said in a statement.

About 2 a.m. Jan. 26, according to a statement from the town of Christiansburg, a town police officer pulled Hurst over on the U.S. 460 bypass, between the exits for downtown Christiansburg and Peppers Ferry Road. The officer said he saw the driver swerve across the right side fog line several times and drive above the posted speed limit.

When the officer approached the driver, according to the city's statement, he noticed the driver's eyes were red, and the officer smelled alcohol coming from within the vehicle.

In the video, Hurst admits to drinking champagne and says he had taken Adderall earlier in the day.

The officer got the driver's license and conducted a routine check of the license status, according to the city, then explained to the driver, identified as Hurst, what he had seen in traffic. He asked Hurst to follow his pen with his eyes. He then asked Hurst to step out of the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests. The officer administered those tests and a preliminary field breath test, which is a portable breath test used in the field to assist the officer in determining if a person is impaired.

Hurst’s preliminary breath test registered a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .085, according to the city.

Many have questioned why the officer let Hurst Go with a warning. It has to do with the Field breathalyzer test.

“It’s not admissible in court but it is the base of the officer to charge you with DUI which then requires you to go to the station,” Legal Analyst Steve Benjamin said.

The officer pointed out that Hurst would have been under the legal limit by the time he got to the police station.

There’s also a state law that says legislators can’t be arrested while the General Assembly is in session. Police say that was not the case here.

“I don’t see politicians being given a pass for criminal conduct,” Benjamin said.

The officer did not let Hurst get back behind the wheel.

A female passenger is seen driving away while Hurst climbed into the backseat.

The officer was aware Hurst is a delegate, but neither the officer nor Hurst mentioned that at any time during the encounter, according to the city’s statement.

The city adds, “Additionally, according to Section IV, Article 9 of the Constitution of Virginia, unless they have committed treason, a felony, or a breach of peace, legislators are immune from arrest while the General Assembly is in session. Neither the officer nor Hurst mentioned this law, but the officer was aware of the law’s existence, because it’s taught during the police academy. This provision of the State Constitution makes it highly unlikely that Hurst could have prosecuted in court even if he had been arrested. The officer weighed all of the factors and made a judgement call, as is done each and every time an officer decides whether or not to make an arrest. The officer, Lt. Stephen Swecker, is highly experienced in DUI detection and enforcement. He has been recognized and awarded by Mothers Against Drunk Driving on at least four occasions for his performance in this area.”

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