A district judge in Virginia is dismissing cases against drivers
charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
District Court Judge Ian O’Flaherty said the law prosecutors use to
convict drunken drivers is unconstitutional. O’Flaherty serves in the state’s
19th Judicial District in Fairfax, VA, which is about 25 miles southwest of
downtown Washington D.C.
Virginia law presumes that someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.08
percent or higher is intoxicated. That violates the right to a presumption of
innocence, according to the ruling O’Flaherty wrote when he dismissed charges
against at least two alleged drunken drivers last month.
Corrine Magee, a defense attorney who first successfully argued the
issue before O’Flaherty, said Virginia’s law presumes the blood-alcohol level
at the time the test is given is equal to the level at the time of the offense,
even if the test is given hours after a driver is pulled over.
Prosecutors reportedly are now taking steps to avoid O’Flaherty on all
drunken driving cases.
Patrick O’Connor, president of the northern Virginia chapter of Mothers
Against Drunk Driving, told The Associated
Press the judge’s decision “undermines the efforts of the police and
prosecutors to enforce the DWI laws, puts drunk drivers back behind the wheel
and potentially denies justice to victims of drunk drivers.”
State Delegate David Albo, a defense attorney, said he sees no
difference between a presumption of intoxication at 0.08 and a presumption of
speeding at 80 mph.
“So far not a single judge in Virginia has ruled the other way,” he
told The AP. “It’s just one