When an unexpected death occurs, there is an understandable desire for answers and justice, if appropriate. However, when law enforcement officers believe a crime has been committed, a person suspected of committing that crime has certain rights that must be upheld. In fact, charges against a driver in Virginia stemming from an alleged drunk driving case have recently been dismissed due to what some reports describe as police officer missteps.
The case involves an accident that happened in Feb. 2019. According to reports, a 66-year-old man attempted a left turn into the path of a vehicle driven by a 78-year-old man, causing both vehicles to strike a guardrail. Though the accident appeared minor at the time — reports indicate that both vehicles were traveling at 20 mph — the older man began suffering headaches soon after and ultimately passed away days after the accident, reportedly due to subdural hematoma.
The other driver was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol and faced criminal charges as a result. However, a representative for the man noticed problematic issues with police reports. An audio recording did not match the officer’s report of the incident and indicated that the man’s rights may have been violated; the officer, according to reports, then filed a second report with different information, one that may have been more likely to have been upheld in court. Specifically, the officer reportedly failed to notify the man that he was under arrest; arrest is a requirement for a blood draw to occur without a warrant. Though he ordered the man to submit to a blood draw, he did not obtain a warrant.
Prosecutors ultimately determined that they could not place the officer on the stand, resulting in a dismissal of the charges against the driver. Though complaints have been filed against the police officer in question, he remains on active duty. Unfortunately, many people in Virginia facing charges as a result of drunk driving allegations lack the legal training to recognize a violation of their constitutional rights. An experienced criminal defense attorney can review all evidence related to a case in search of unlawful actions that could ultimately result in a dismissal or other favorable outcome.