VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Changes are coming to the way DUI cases in Virginia Beach are handled.
Right now, arresting officers handle most DUI first offense cases without a prosecutor. But beginning June 30, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office will prosecute every DUI case within the city, according to Macie Pridgen with the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
The change is something Kaye Walsh has been advocating for a long time: “We’re very, very excited. We’ve been wanting this for, I’ll bet you, at least nine years,” she told WAVY.com.
Walsh’s daughter, Robin, was killed by a drunk driver in 1997.
Virginia Beach accounts for 10 percent of the state’s DUI cases — the highest rate in the Commonwealth. More than 2,300 DUI arrests from the city passed through General District Court last year.
“This is unacceptable for a city that consistently ranks among the safest cities of its size,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle said. “Impaired driving will not be tolerated in Virginia Beach. If you drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will be arrested by law enforcement and prosecuted by my office.”
Walsh said Stolle promised her personally he would get prosecutors for every DUI case in Virginia Beach. And Now he is.
“The Virginia General Assembly has created some of the toughest DUI laws in the country, but with each bill they pass, they create a more complex process that we’re asking police officers to walk into court and handle all on their own.”
“Although they can testify, [officers] cannot argue the law as defense attorneys can,” Pridgen said in a release. “By providing a prosecutor for every DUI case, the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office will be assisting law enforcement and helping dockets move efficiently in court.”
Some defense attorneys say it won’t be so efficient. Some told 10 On Your Side the change could create a backlog in the courthouse, adding 1,400 cases a year, or 25 per week.
But Stolle has a plan for that — there will now be one courtroom dedicated solely to DUI cases. And it won’t cost taxpayers a dime.
A Public Safety Night will be held at Mount Trashmore on June 27 at 7 p.m. to highlight the DUI efforts. The event is free and open to the public. WAVY-TV is a co-sponsor of the event, and we’ll be there with our W82TXT campaign.
Additionally, a public service announcement was released and can be viewed below.