Earlier this month, a Virginia court of appeals denied a defendant’s request to overturn his DUI conviction. Originally, the defendant was charged with and convicted of driving under the influence, and he was sentenced to twelve months in jail as a result. On appeal, one of the defendant’s arguments was that the officer that pulled him over did not have the legal authority to conduct the traffic stop, and thus that the evidence the officer obtained should have been suppressed at trial. Ultimately, the court of appeals disagreed with the defendant and denied the appeal.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, a state trooper was patrolling one afternoon when he noticed the defendant, driving with an expired vehicle registration on the back of his car. The officer proceeded to conduct a traffic stop, pulling the defendant over on the side of the road.
At that point, the trooper noticed that the defendant had several orange prescription drug bottles in the car. He also noticed that the defendant’s breath smelled of alcohol, as well as that the defendant’s eyes appeared to be bloodshot. The trooper proceeded to conduct several field sobriety tests, and the defendant was unable to walk in a straight line or stand on one leg during the tests.
The defendant was arrested, and officers found additional medicine and alcohol scattered throughout his car after they arrested him. A trial court found the evidence sufficient to prove that the defendant was intoxicated while driving, and he was convicted accordingly.
On appeal, the defendant cited a Virginia regulation stating that no law enforcement officer is allowed stop a car for expired registration prior to the first day of the fourth month after the original expiration date. The regulation also says that if an officer discovers evidence as a result of a premature stop, that evidence is inadmissible in court. Here, said the defendant, the officer stopped him for expired registration before the officer was legally allowed to do so. Thus, the evidence obtained as a result of the stop should have been excluded at trial.
The court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately noted that the regulation in question took effect in March 2021. The defendant was arrested for driving under the influence in 2019, and the new law did not apply retroactively. Even though the legislature had decided in 2021 that stopping a driver for expired registration before the required amount of time was illegal, the law would not apply to traffic stops that had taken place prior to the law’s enactment.
Thus, said the court, the officer’s stop here was perfectly legal. The evidence obtained was admissible at trial, and the defendant’s appeal was denied.
Are You Facing DUI Charges in Fairfax County?
At Robinson Law, PLLC, we understand that finding yourself up against criminal charges for driving under the influence is a scary place to be. We have over 50 years of combined experience in criminal, traffic, and DUI defense, and we are eager to use our expertise to your advantage. We handle cases not related to domestic violence, assault, and battery, drugs, DUIs, and guns. For a free and confidential consultation with one of our attorneys, call us today at 703-542-3616.