Not Your Average Virginia Drunk Driving Offender: Priest Gets His 2nd DUI

virginia-drunk-driving-priestThe lookback period, also known as the “washout period,” is how long it will take your drunk driving conviction to be removed from your permanent driving record. According to Virginia drunk driving laws, the lookback period in that state is 10 years.

Not every state has a lookback period of 10 years, although it is common. Alabama only has a five-year lookback, Washington state has seven years, and Texas lookbacks last a lifetime.

One of the reasons why states have these periods of time established is because they don’t want drunk drivers to receive the same level of punishment for each drunk driving conviction. If they continue to make the choice to drive drunk, they should receive harsher punishments than they did for their first conviction.

That 10-year period is exactly why a Virginia Catholic priest appeared in front of a judge to face his second charge of Virginia drunk driving. Father Walter Lewis was driving late in the evening when he was stopped by police because he was crossing the center line.

He blew .11 on a breathalyzer and he was arrested for drunk driving. That’s when police found out he also had a previous Virginia drunk driving conviction from 2011. For that conviction, he received a 12-month sentence in jail that was suspended as well as a restricted driver’s license.

Although it must be a little unnerving having a priest appear in front of you for sentencing, the judge in this case did hand down a harsher punishment. Because he pleaded no contest to the charges, he received 12 months in jail that was entirely suspended except for 10 days. He also lost his driver’s license for three years, and he’ll be able to apply for a restricted driver’s license requiring him to drive with an ignition interlock for one year.

It just goes to show that anyone, even a priest, can be a repeat offender. If they drink and drive, they’ll pay the price just like everyone else.

Driving Drunk And Playing Pokemon Go Will End With You In Prison

driving drunk pokemon go2016 will go down in the record books for a few things, but if you think back to summer 2016, you’ll surely remember the huge crowds of people walking around and playing Pokemon Go. It’s fine to enjoy the game, but it’s not a good thing when someone is driving drunk and playing at the same time. Unfortunately it seems to have happened all too often this past year.

A recent crash in Virginia Beach occurred when a man was driving drunk and decided to pull out his smartphone to play Pokemon Go at the same time. The fact that he was driving distracted was enough to cause chaos, but when you add alcohol to that mix you end up with a situation that involved him crashing into three cars and ending with hitting a teenage pedestrian.

Thankfully the pedestrian is going to recover from her injuries, but the man who hit her while driving drunk and searching for Pikachu will be spending a significant amount of time behind bars. He’s received a host of charges including maiming as a result of driving while intoxicated, and he’s expected to receive up to thirty six years in prison.

Incredibly, the offender from Virginia Beach isn’t the only person who’s ever made the choice to drive drunk while playing Pokemon Go. Another man from Vermont crashed this summer while driving drunk and playing Pokemon Go, and he was arrested after blowing a .20 on a breathalyzer. That level of drunk driving is lethal on its own, but when you pair it with distracted driving? He’s fortunate no one was injured or killed.

There were also two other men who were arrested for, you guessed it, driving drunk and playing Pokemon Go this past summer. They crashed separately into trees, one vehicle caught fire, and they were both very fortunate to escape without significant injury.

Let’s hope that when 2016 drew to a close it also closed the chapter on Pokemon Go and driving drunk, and let’s hope that this is the last time we hear of someone searching for Pokemon at the same time.

Here’s What Can Happen If Someone Avoids A Drunk Driving Checkpoint

drunk driving checkpointHave you ever wondered why police will announce a drunk driving checkpoint before it happens? After all, doesn’t announcing it sort of defeat the purpose of springing a checkpoint on someone who might be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

Police announce checkpoints because they have to, or at least they have had to since 1990 when a Supreme Court ruling decided that checkpoints were within the boundaries of the constitution. The only catch was that if police were going to host one, they’d have to publicize it ahead of time.

This publication of checkpoints means, in most cases, the element of surprise is gone for the police officers. But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t caught unaware and happen upon a drunk driving checkpoint once in awhile, and a recent tragic case in Coeburn, Virginia is the perfect example.

Samantha Dennis was driving down a road when she happened upon a checkpoint. Instead of stopping she made a quick U-turn and crashed straight into a vehicle driven by a young mother and her children.

The children sustained injuries, but their mother died as a result of the crash. A passenger in Dennis’ vehicle also suffered life-threatening injuries. It wasn’t clear whether Dennis was actually driving drunk, but instead of driving through a routine checkpoint and receiving a potential drunk driving charge, she’s now destroyed a family and has been charged with felony murder and felony eluding.

That’s quite a price that many people are now going to have to pay, all because someone was attempting to get away from a drunk driving checkpoint. If you see a drunk driving checkpoint in the future and you aren’t quite sure whether or not you’d blow over the legal limit, keep this case in mind. It might stop you from making another wrong choice when you might have already made a bad decision by getting behind the wheel drunk.

Roanoke County Kicks Off DUI Task Force

DUI task force virginia The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is behind many different initiatives to stop impaired drivers. They’re behind the “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving” campaign and they fund programs and provide education on the dangers of impaired driving.

The NHTSA also funds DUI task forces, and Roanoke County, Virginia is one of the latest beneficiaries of a million dollar grant to start their own. The task force will be collaboration between Roanoke County, Roanoke City, Salem, and Vinton.

A DUI task force is made up of a group of people who’s responsibility it is to apprehend drunk drivers. If you live in Roanoke County you could be seeing more checkpoints in your area, and police may frequently patrol the hot spots where drunk driving crashes have occurred.

To help them along the way, the NHTSA has a guide for task forces working to stop impaired drivers. In it they provide data from several counties who have had DUI task forces for varied lengths of time, and they show how each task force worked to apprehend drunk drivers. They also provide recommendations for task forces to improve their operations.

Now that a county in Virginia is cracking down with a DUI task force, the state may also want to look at their first offender DUI laws. As it stands, a first offense in Virginia only requires five days in jail, a minimum of $250 fine, and up to one-year driver’s license suspension.  An ignition interlock required only if the person has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .15. Penalties get a little harsher at the second conviction level. The offender is required to lose their driver’s license for three years and install an ignition interlock no matter what their BAC.

The DUI task force is a great step in the right direction for Roanoke County, and if they see positive results, it might give other counties the motivation to step up and start an extra patrol of their own.

Arrested For DUI In Virgina? Your Mug Shot May Appear On Facebook

mugshots-arrested-for-dui-virginiaA driving under the influence (DUI) arrest isn’t something you can easily hide. Depending on the state, if you’re arrested for DUI you may have to go to jail, you’ll probably lose your driver’s license for a period of time before you even go to court, and if you’re convicted you’ll may be required to drive with an ignition interlock. That means blowing before you start your vehicle no matter who is in the car with you.

Now one county in Virginia wants to make it even more obvious that you arrested for DUI in the state. They started publicizing mugshots of people who were arrested for drunk driving on Facebook, and since the first time they shared, they’re moved on to sharing both photos and videos of offenders.

Public shaming might sound like a harsh step to take, but after Chesterfield Police arrested 102 suspected drunk drivers in one month last September, it was step that was needed. After all, if fines, jail time, and cost of an ignition interlock don’t work to stop drunk drivers, maybe having mug shots posted online will.

Just like everything that’s somewhat controversial, there are supporters and opponents to the sharing of mug shots online. While some people in the county think it’s a good idea and that ‘public shaming’ is a good way to stop drunk drivers, others have commented on Facebook that if an offender is eventually acquitted of the charge, that mug shot will be public record.

It’s true that what goes online stays online, and if someone is actually acquitted of DUI in Virginia, they may be able to ask for their mug shot to be taken down. But for the rest of the drunk drivers, it could be just the thing to stop a first time offender from turning into a repeat offender, and if that’s the case, the roads in Virginia will be that much safer for drivers.

Ride sharing Linked To Lower Rates Of Drunk Driving In Virginia

drunk driving in VirginiaVirginia has been seeing a steady drop in alcohol-related fatalities over the past 5 years, and the Department of Motor Vehicles thinks the most recent drop may be due to ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

The stats from 2014 show that 251 people were killed in 7,666 crashes caused by drunk driving in Virginia. That number doesn’t include the over 5,000 people who were injured in these crashes. The data from 2015 that’s been recently released shows another decrease, with 195 alcohol-related deaths from 7,334 crashes.

It’s a significant decrease in deaths attributed to drunk driving in Virginia, and the advent of Uber and Lyft could very well be one of the reasons why. Both companies received permanent legal status allowing them to operate in the state back in February 2015, and the promotion of the companies as a safe way home after you’ve been drinking could mean someone doesn’t make the choice to drink and drive.

There are also a few other reasons why there could be a decrease in drunk driving in Virginia:

  • Virginia has an all-offender ignition interlock law. In place since 2012, first offenders in the state are required to install an ignition interlock if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or higher, and all repeat offenders over .08 are required to use the device. Ignition interlocks stop first time drunk drivers from becoming repeat drunk drivers.
  • Law enforcement have been focused on educating the public. Police are using new and creative ways to get people to think twice about drunk driving. Posting public mug shots on police Facebook pages is one way; relentless checkpoint stops every weekend are another.

Whatever the cause of the decrease, both the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and the local police are happy to see the drop. With so many states seeing a constant increase in alcohol-related deaths, that drop is something all states should work toward.

Virginia’s Traffic Laws Expand Ignition Interlock Use

virginia-ignition-interlock-lawOn July 1st, 2015, the state of Virginia took a step forward and made some changes to their traffic laws that could affect a lot of motorists on the roads.

To start, vehicles that assist on roadside or traffic accidents must now be equipped with lights and are subject to Virginia’s Move Over law, meaning if you see these vehicles you must pull aside and let them pass. Motorists can also receive a ticket for following too closely to cyclists, mopeds, and other non-motorized vehicles.

But the most important new traffic law in Virginia has nothing to do with changing lanes or emergency vehicles: it changes Virginia’s offering of ignition interlock devices. As of right now, if a resident of Virginia is convicted of an offense similar to Virginia’s DUI laws in a federal court, he or she can petition for restricted driving privileges. Before this change, only people with a DUI charge on record could petition for the restricted license.

That restricted license and ignition interlock program is a lifeline for many offenders charged with DUI, and now other offenders can take advantage of this penalty. An ignition interlock will let them get back on the road and ready to resume their lives much more quickly. They can continue to go to work, school, and drive their families where they need to go.

Because even a first DUI offense in Virginia is punishable by up to $2,500 in fines, up to one year in jail, a one year drivers license suspension, and at least six months on the ignition interlock program, the ignition interlock is the light at the end of a long road of restitution for their crime.

With ignition interlocks now being offered beyond the pool of DUI offenders in Virginia, more progress can be made in the keeping the roads in the state safer for everyone on them.

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