The U.S. Supreme Court will get an opportunity to rethink an earlier ruling that turned DUI prosecutions upside down in Virginia and across the country.
In June, the high court made it harder to convict someone for DUI when it ruled in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts that the technician who performs a DNA, drug, or breathalyzer test must personally appear in court to testify against the accused. Virginia and most other states had laws on the books that permitted sworn reports by technicians to be admitted as evidence without the need for a court appearance.
But in a 5-4 ruling, that high court said prosecutors generally must present the tech who prepared a report unless the defendant gets notice of the prosecution’s intent to rely on the report and waives the right to have the tech appear.
Responding to the high court ruling, the Virginia General Assembly, during an August 19 special session in Richmond, rushed to modify the Commonwealth’s DUI law to conform to the decision. According to Virginia Lawyers Weekly, compliance with the law has complicated matters for overburdened prosecutors and lab staff.
However, the nation’s highest court has agreed to hear a similar case that could result in a reversal. The new case is Briscoe v. Virginia, an appeal of a Virginia Supreme Court decision that upheld Virginia’s then-in-effect procedure for submitting results of laboratory findings without the technician having to personally show up in court. Some 26 states have petitioned the Supreme Court to use the Briscoe case as a way to throw out the prior Melendez-Diaz ruling. The case is on the court’s docket for a January oral argument, with a written decision likely to emerge sometime this spring.
Motorists arrested for driving under the influence in Virginia are subjected to severe criminal and administrative penalties and may also be sued in civil court for personal injury damages. If you–or someone you love–have been injured in a Virginia automobile accident, you need to know your legal rights. Do not hesitate to get in touch with the personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Richard J Serpe, PC., Toll Free 877-544-5323.