This could develop in a most interesting fashion.

DUI law ruled unconstitutional
Va. presumes guilt if blood-alcohol level is 0.08, a judge says
McLEAN — A Fairfax County judge has ruled that key components of Virginia’s drunken-driving laws are unconstitutional, citing an obscure, decades-old U.S. Supreme Court decision that could prompt similar challenges nationwide.
Virginia’s law is unconstitutional because it presumes that an individual with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or higher is intoxicated, denying a defendant’s right to a presumption of innocence, Judge Ian O’Flaherty ruled in dismissing charges against at least two alleged drunken drivers last month.
As a district judge, O’Flaherty’s rulings do not establish any formal precedent, but word of the constitutional argument is spreading quickly among the defense bar. Every state has similar presumptions about intoxication at a 0.08 blood-alcohol level, so defense lawyers across the nation are likely to make similar arguments.

In the interest of bolstering the NCAA’s abusive nickname case, I’d like to point out that the judge’s name is O’Flaherty and the successful defense lawyer’s is Magee. Now, come to whatever conclusions you’d like about the stereotype reinforced when a drunk driving case is left up to the Irish. I think justice came down on the right side.
A boisterous Swill Salute to Swill regular No Brainer for this encouraging piece of news.

5 Responses to “”

  1. Mr. Bingley says:

    word of the constitutional argument is spreading quickly among the defense bar.
    That ain’t the only bar…

  2. Ken Summers says:

    Interesting. Stare decisis bites ’em in the butt.
    Yes, Dave, come here and tell how stupid my comment is…

  3. Dave J says:

    Even before reading it, this decision is completely ridiculous. The legislature determined that a certain blood-alcohol percentage would be deemed “legally intoxicated.” Defendants charged under this statute would not be denied due process because, at trial, they would be presumed innocent unless and until the state proved beyond a reasonable that their blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit.
    The logical implication of this decision would be that the requirement of due process prevents the legislature from EVER imposing bright-line numerical cutoffs with respect to anything. It would mean most “strict liability” crimes would become a highly particularized and fact-sensitive nightmare to prosecute, even though they’re the ones that DON’T require a specific state of mind on the part of the defendant. The age of consent–and thus the crime of statutory rape–is what most immediately comes to mind, but there are dozens if not hundreds of other possible examples.
    Since this is a trial court opinion, it is not precedent binding on anyone, but can still be cited as “persuasive.” Hopefully, it will be appealed and quickly reversed.

  4. Ken Summers says:

    Yeah, it seems to me that the “presumed innocent” would only require that the prosecuter prove greater than 0.08%, at which the presumption of guilt could be rebutted.
    Just as an aside, I was very angry at the campaign to lower the limit in California from 0.1% (not that I necessarily disagree with doing so). The airwaves were flooded with crap claiming that 0.08% was blind, stinking drunk. Immediately after the law was passed came the anti-drunk-driving campaigns saying that now one could be drunk while feeling no effects at all.
    It’s the f***ing lies, stupid.

  5. The Real JeffS says:

    Sounds like a combination of a slick lawyer and a stupid judge. By this “logic”, speed limits are unconstitutional, since a speeder would be considered “presumed guilty before innocent”.
    And on and on, ad nauseum.

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