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Diligence in document review apparent door to DUI dismissal

If we have not said it before, let us say it now. While Virginia prosecutors commonly file charges for driving under the influence, that does not mean they automatically result in convictions. Whether the DUI allegation represents a possible repeat offense or is the first one faced by an individual, the burden is on the authorities to follow sometimes complex procedures in the prosecution of a case.

If mistakes are made, which does happen, defendants should not be the ones held accountable. But prosecutors aren't obligated to point out their mistakes, so it may require the practiced eye of an experienced attorney to unearth prosecutorial errors in the cause of presenting a vigorous defense.

This seems to have helped in a case this week in Chesapeake. A man was brought before the court to face a felony DUI charge, but saw the charges dismissed. He had been incarcerated for almost six months waiting for his day in court. After the judge's decision, he was released. He could have received up to five years in jail had he been tried and found guilty.

The man had been convicted of drunk driving twice before -- once in 2010 and again in July 2012. His third arrest came after a stop in September 2012. Police cited him for reckless driving and speeding.

The felony DUI charge was dismissed, officials said later, because the prosecutor on the case didn't check the arrest paperwork. They say she thought the citation was issued under a statute that would have allowed two separate charges and convictions using the same evidence. But the charge only listed a more general reckless driving charge. Because the defendant had pleaded guilty to that charge, the judge ruled the second charge couldn't be brought.

Prosecutors say this was a one-time mistake and it won't happen again. Perhaps that's true, but with any given case errors are possible. With the consequences being as harsh as they are, anyone facing charges would be well advised to seek legal help in protection of their rights.

Source: HamptonRoads.com, "Chesapeake judge dismisses 3rd DUI charge after error," Scott Daugherty, The Virginian-Pilot, Feb. 27, 2013

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