UPDATE June 25, 2014:
All First Offense DUI and DWI Cases in Virginia Beach will be handled by the Commonwealth Attorney Office — And What It Really Means For Those Facing a First Time DUI in Va Beach.
In Virginia Beach, starting on July 1st. The Commonwealth Attorney Office (i.e. prosecutor’s office) will be involved in all DUI and DWI cases. Before July 1st, the charging officer would handle on his own, without assistance from a prosecutor, all first offense DUI cases. However, if a case involved 2nd or subsequent offense, involved a blood sample, or an accident the officer would typically request assistance.
So what does it really mean, in regarding a DUI case, to have a prosecutor on the other side for first time DUIs? In my opinion, there are benefits and a couple disadvantages.
The main benefit is that the prosecutors in Virginia Beach often provide the DUI checklist as part of discovery. The DUI checklist is the document prepared by the officer that details the interaction with the defendant and contains very valuable information (reason for stop, what FSTs where performed, may reveal errors in the DUI investigation and so on). Essentially, it allows the defense an opportunity to build a case based on the Commonwealth’s case before trial.
The disadvantage is that instead of having an officer just providing testimony at trial, there will be now an attorney on their side who knows the law and can argue it, can do cross examination of the defendant (if the defendant decides to testify) and also make argument at closing.
The description above may sound discouraging if you are faced with a DUI or DWI in Virginia Beach, but in my honest opinion it doesn’t concern me that there may be a prosecutor for all drunk driving cases in VA Beach. My impression of the Virginia Beach prosecutors as a whole, like in the other Hampton Roads cities, is that even though they handle a lot of DUI cases, most of those involve a defense attorney, whether private or Public defender, just pleading it out. As such, the prosecutors have limited experience trying cases. With that in my mind, the fact there may be a prosecutor on the other side is not as important as it may appear.