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Judge rules that Virginia DUI case can be tried in circuit court

A 24-year-old Chesapeake man facing a misdemeanor drunk driving charge is going to be tried in circuit court rather than general district court. Prosecutors moved to drop the current charge and refile it in the higher court.

The prosecutor says she asked for the venue change to save money. If convicted in general district court, the defendant would be allowed to appeal and be tried again in circuit court. She says that she plans to have expert witnesses testify and would prefer not to have them testify in two separate trials.

The judge in the case approved the move even though misdemeanor crimes are generally dealt with in the lower courts. He explained his decision by saying that prosecutors can dismiss cases for just about any reason they choose.

The defendant's lawyer is not happy about the decision. He told the media that it denies the defendant a chance at a second trial. Further, because his client has to be re-arrested, it increases his legal costs. The attorney said the decision "sets a terrible precedent" for DUI cases. However, the prosecutor says she does not plan to make a habit of moving DUI cases to circuit court.

The defendant was arrested last December after police found his damaged vehicle on South Military Highway. When they located the man, he admitted to having been drinking, but said that someone else had been driving the car when it crashed. Although DNA obtained from the airbag allegedly indicated that he had been the one in the driver's seat, the defendant still says he is not guilty of drunk driving.

This is not the defendant's first DUI arrest or his first time arguing that someone else was behind the wheel. He was arrested on Interstate 64 in June 2012. The DUI charge in that case was dismissed by a judge.

Prosecutors and judges take DUI charges very seriously. They can carry stiff penalties, including prison time. Experienced defense attorneys can help their clients maneuver the Virginia judicial system and be ready to protect the rights of their client through any twists and turns the case might take.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Chesapeake DUI charges dropped, to be revisited" Scott Daugherty, Apr. 09, 2014

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