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Dropped DUI charge no win, only a prelude to other court action

The standard of due process is one of the hallmarks of the U.S. legal system. It is meant to ensure that anyone being ushered through the justice system is treated equally and with the presumption of innocence required by the Constitution.

That does not mean that the halls of justice are like one long corridor with no doors to the right or left. The fact is that there are more than a few routes that can be taken during the course of a prosecution. Being able to anticipate what the variables might be in any given case can be complicated, this is why anyone facing criminal charges of any kind should always be working with an attorney.

Action that took place in General District Court this past week in connection with a case of alleged driving under the influence out of Chesapeake has some legal experts expressing concern that a bad precedent has been set.

What happened is that a judge granted a prosecution move to dismiss a misdemeanor DUI charge against a 24-year-old defendant at the district court level so that the charge could be moved up to the higher Circuit Court.

The reason given for the request was reportedly judicial economy. The prosecution says it intends to call expert witnesses and it doesn't want those witnesses to have to testify at a second trial. Such a possibility might exist if a lower court conviction was overturned on appeal to the circuit court.   

Legal observers note that the move effectively removes an avenue of appeal that would usually exist. The attorney for the defendant says the maneuver also means his client faces having a second arrest on his record for the same alleged infraction and increased legal costs.

The further view is offered that the judge's decision represents a precedent that could inspire prosecutors to petition to have every DUI case moved up to circuit court.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Chesapeake DUI charges dropped, to be revisited," Scott Daugherty, April 9, 2014

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