Virginia DUI Discovery Process
The DUI discovery process is fairly limited in Virginia under the Virginia Supreme Court rules and under the Virginia code. That being said, most jurisdictions provide fairly extensive discovery in DUI cases as long as the proper requests have been made. For example, in most cases, they will receive a police report, if there is a video that exists, they are going to receive the video and have an opportunity to interview the arresting officer.
It varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction at what point the person receives that information. In some jurisdictions, the person can come review it in advance. In others, they will mail it to the person after a discovery request. In others, when the person goes to court for the first time, it is the first time that the person is receiving that information.
If you have questions about the Virginia DUI discovery process, or you are facing penalties for a DUI charge, it would be in your best interest to consider contacting a skilled DUI lawyer as soon as possible.
For DUI cases, there are a couple of primary things that they are looking for in discovery. The first one is going to be is whether there is any video or audio evidence. In many jurisdictions, whenever a law enforcement officer initiates a traffic stop, they are required to engage their video and audio equipment so that an impartial record, everything, start to finish, is captured.
That is often the most important piece of evidence because they don’t have to rely on anyone subjective opinion for what it says or what it shows. Beyond that, they are looking for police reports which are going to contain a lot of information including all of the officer’s observations, the tests that they performed, information about the conditions that they and a host of other things which can potentially be relevant to defending that kind of case.
Request for Discovery
It depends on the jurisdiction. In most jurisdictions, there is an official motion for discovery which is filed which the government then complies with. However, there are a number of jurisdictions which have what is called an open file policy. That means that essentially they will make everything in their file available to defense counsel. In those jurisdictions, rather than make an official discovery request through the court, a request is made to the prosecutor’s office to review the file and then an appointment is made for that to happen.
Type of Tests
There are a number of things that officers are looking for during a DUI stop. The first thing is if there is any driving behavior that would lead an officer to believe that a DUI was in progress. Sometimes a DUI stop is initiated because of some other traffic infraction which has occurred. In many cases, officers observed something that was happening with the vehicle which leads them to suspect DUI. From there, officers are making observations during the initial encounter at the driver side window; they are looking for whether a person smells like alcohol, whether their eyes are bloodshot and glassy and any other sort of evidence which is evidence of a DUI.
Once they have determined that there is and they have asked the suspect to exit their vehicle, that is when the tradition tests that most people are familiar with are administered. These are field sobriety tests that may have given entirely for the reason of assisting an officer in building a case that a person is in fact under the influence. These can include the standardized tests which most frequently are a nine-step walk and turn, a one-legged stand, and horizontal gaze nystagmus.
It can also include a variety of other tests such as finger dexterity tests, ADC tests, and counting tests. From there, Virginia law requires an officer to offer a preliminary breath test at the side of the road to determine what the person’s blood alcohol is. If a person is ultimately arrested, the final test that they are administered is the breath test which is done at the police station and which ultimately provides the blood alcohol amount which is going to be used in court.
Role of Government
The government plays an important role in discovery. They are the ones who provide the attorney with discovery, they are the ones who compile the police reports, and they make sure that any video that exists is provided and put it into a format that is easily digested by defense counsel. It is sometimes true that the government is not entirely forthcoming – not to the extent that they should be – with discovery materials. For the most part, they do make a good faith effort to turn over whatever they have.
Handling the Discovery Process
The law enforcement is not in charge of the discovery process in Virginia; it is actually the prosecutor’s office. Law enforcement does, however, participate in the discovery process to the extent that so much of the discoverable material that an attorney receives is created by law enforcement. For example, law enforcement is required to turn on their video. Law enforcement is required to create police reports. When they do these things, they create evidence which will be then are able to look at and which will use to help evaluate what kind of case we have.
Benefits of an Attorney
A DUI can have very serious repercussions in both the short and long term. If you get pulled over it is important that you know the discovery process that will occur if law enforcement accuses you of driving while under the influence. If you have any questions concerning this, or if you are facing penalties for DUI charges, contact an experienced Virginia DUI lawyer.