A Virginia man accused of driving under the influence (DUI) recently appealed his conviction in front of the Court of Appeals. The man argued that the lower court erred in finding that his appeal was not timely. He argued that although Virginia Code § 16.1-132 requires notice of appeals to be filed within ten days of the conviction, the Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic tolled this requirement. However, in response, the Commonwealth contended, among other things, that the defendant waived his argument because he did not raise the issue in the circuit court. This case exemplifies the importance of abiding by the strict procedural and statutory laws surrounding Virginia DUI cases.
In this case, the court convicted the defendant in March 2020 and sentenced him to 60 days in jail, a fine, probation, and an alcohol program. The same day, in response to the pandemic, the Supreme Court suspended all court proceedings. In June 2020, the defendant filed an appeal of his conviction; however, the court entered a notice denying the appeal, citing the ten-day notice deadline. On appeal, the defendant contends that the ruling was inappropriate because of the Supreme Court’s emergency order.
Under Virginia Rule 5A:18, trial court rulings will not be considered as a basis for reversal unless “the objection was stated with reasonable certainty at the time of the ruling.” Exceptions only exist if the party can show good cause to enable the court to rule on the issue. To satisfy this rule, the objection must occur when the trial court “is in a position, not only to consider” the error but also rectify the effect. However, Code § 8.01-384(A) holds that litigants who are not given an opportunity to object to a ruling when it was made shall not have the absence of an objection prejudice them.