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Virginia Court Holds that Evidence was Sufficient to Convict Defendant of DWI

In a recent case coming out of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his DWI conviction. Originally, a police officer found the defendant sleeping in his car, and upon several sobriety tests, the officer discovered that the defendant was intoxicated. The defendant was charged and convicted of driving while intoxicated. He appealed, arguing that there was not enough evidence to support the guilty finding. The court of appeals considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately denied it, concluding that the court could reasonably infer his guilt based on the facts presented by the officer.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, late one night in 2019, an officer was dispatched to investigate a report of two people asleep in their car. The officer found the reported vehicle partially parked on the sidewalk of a public street. Inside, the defendant and his girlfriend were both asleep. The car engine was off, but the gearshift was in the drive position and the headlights were on. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer smelled alcohol coming from inside.

The defendant woke up and agreed to provide a breath sample for the officer. After the breath test, the defendant admitted to the officer that he was likely over the legal limit. He also stated repeatedly that he knew he had messed up. The officer informed the defendant that his preliminary breath test result was .11, substantially over the legal limit of .08. The officer arrested the defendant for DWI.

The Decision

The defendant was convicted, and he promptly appealed, arguing that there was not enough evidence to support the DWI conviction. According to the defendant, it was reasonable to infer that his girlfriend could have been the one driving the car to the spot where the officers found them. Because the Commonwealth could not conclusively prove that the defendant had actually driven with alcohol in his system, the DWI conviction should be overturned.

The court considered this argument but ultimately denied the defendant’s appeal. According to the court, it was reasonable to infer that the defendant was the person driving the vehicle. He was sleeping in the passenger seat, the car was running, and the defendant had verbally admitted to the officer that he had messed up. Even though the defendant was not actually driving the car when the officer found him, it would have been against the weight of the evidence to conclude that the girlfriend or anyone else had been driving the vehicle.

Given this conclusion, the defendant’s appeal was denied, and the DWI conviction remained in place.

Have You Been Charged with a DWI in the Commonwealth of Virginia?

At Robinson Law, PLLC, we understand that fighting DWI charges in Virginia can be a challenging process. We are standing by, ready to talk you through your options so that we can develop an aggressive defense strategy that gets you the results you need. For a free and confidential consultation, call us today at (703) 844-3746. We can help you defend your freedom and move on with your life.

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