THE INDEPENDENT NEWS
COURTHOUSE – Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle says a new team of prosecutors is helping provide special attention to cases involving drunk or otherwise impaired drivers.
The effort will help a problem that occurs disproportionately here, Stolle said during a meeting of the First Precinct Citizens Advisory Committee in March.
“It’s a real problem,” Stolle said.
The city accounts for roughly five percent of the state’s population, but 10 percent of Virginia DUI’s cases, he said.
In part, that’s because the city is a tourist town and police focus upon addressing drunk driving. Recent police annual reports show the Second Precinct, which includes the Oceanfront area, makes more DUI arrests than other precincts.
The team, which consists of five prosecutors and three paralegals, began its work in January. Stolle said DUI cases have declined somewhat in recent years. Police still made 2,085 DUI arrests in 2016.
The team focuses on cases of driving under the influence, or DUI, and traffic-related felony charges, including cases of injury or death resulting from impaired driving, according to a statement released in December by Stolle’s spokesperson, Macie Allen.
Impaired people can also include drivers who use illegal or prescription drugs and get behind the wheel, the statement said.
Stolle this month said his office already had focused upon impaired drivers by ensuring prosecutors were assigned to each DUI case, which generally are misdemeanor charges.
“We were seeing way too many fatalities involving drunk drivers,” Stolle said. “We were seeing way to many maimings involving drunk drivers.”
And too many DUIs all together, he added.
Prosecutors rotated through handling such cases, while defense lawyers may specialize. Though Stolle said he initially was concerned some prosecutors might tire of DUI cases, he noted that members of the office told him they wanted to create the specialized team.
“So far it’s working well,” Stolle said during the advisory committee meeting, “and I hope it will continue to work well. …
“The ultimate goal is to make those total DUIs go down.”
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