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DUI acquittal prompts dismissal of linked refusal conviction

It's a general rule of law that evidence gathered by authorities in a way that violates a person's constitutional rights can't be used at trial in a Virginia court. Typically such violations are seen as infringing on an individual's right to be free from unwarranted search and seizure, covered under the Fourth Amendment, or of infringing on their right against self incrimination, which is covered under the Fifth Amendment.

The average reader might think that such so-called exclusionary rules tend only to be applied in cases in which serious criminal charges are involved. What that fails to take into account is that all criminal charges, including something as seemingly mundane as driving under the influence, are serious and should be handled with the help of an experienced attorney. And one recent case shows how the exclusionary rule might be put to use in such matters.

The case involves a former Virginia Beach-area school administrator. Back in March, the man was driving in Lynchburg when he was pulled over after allegedly making an improper U-turn. At the time of the traffic stop, police also accused the man of DUI and refusing to take a blood or breath test. Virginia law makes it illegal for a person arrested on suspicion of DUI to refuse such a test.  

In July, a judge found the defendant guilty of making the improper U-turn. The judge also found him guilty of refusing testing, but he was cleared of the DUI charge.

At the request of the man's attorney, the judge reconsidered the guilty verdict on the refusal charge and dismissed the charge. The attorney says the judge's action reflected that, since there had been no probable cause to arrest the defendant for DUI in the first place, the refusal charge wasn't justified.

That's how the exclusionary rule is supposed to work.

Source: HamptonRoads.com, "Former Va. Beach principal cleared of refusal charge," Kathy Adams, Aug. 7, 2013