Va. delegate not charged after DUI stop; police say his BAC was just above legal limit

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Photo courtesy of Virginia General Assembly.

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — A police officer let a Virginia legislator off with a warning when he was pulled over on suspicion of intoxicated driving.

A statement issued by Christiansburg officials says Montgomery Democrat Chris Hurst was stopped at about 2 a.m. on Sunday and blew a result of .085, just above the legal limit.

The vehicle was traveling west toward Blacksburg on U.S. 460 Bypass, between downtown Christiansburg and Peppers Ferry Road exits, when an officer observed the vehicle swerve across the right side fog line several times.

When the officer approached the vehicle, he smelled the odor of alcohol from the car. He also noticed that the driver’s eyes were red. The officer explained his observations to the driver and asked him to step out of the vehicle.

The driver, Chris Hurst, was given field sobriety tests. The officer also administered a preliminary field breath test, which is a portable breath test used in the field to see if a person is impaired. This test is not admissible as evidence in court.

Hurst complied with the officer’s request and performed all of the tests. The breath test registered a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .085. The officer determined that by the time Hurst was brought in for a formal breathalyzer, Hurst would be under the legal limit.

Because of this, along with Hurst’s overall performance during the field sobriety tests, and coupled with the fact that Hurst had a sober companion in the vehicle who could drive him home, the officer released Hurst without charging him.

The officer was aware that Hurst is a delegate, but neither the officer nor Hurst mentioned it at any time during the encounter.

Additionally, according to Section IV, Article 9 of the Constitution of Virginia, unless they have committed treason, a felony, or a breach of peace, legislators are immune from arrest while the General Assembly is in session.

The officer was aware of the law’s existence because it is taught during the police academy, not because the officer or Hurst mentioned the law.

The provison of the State Constitution makes it highly unlikely that Hurst could have prosecuted in court, even if he had been arrested.

The officer, Lt. Stephen Swecker, is highly experienced in DUI detection and enforcement. He has been recognized and awarded by Mothers Against Drunk Driving on at least four occasions for his performance in this area.

Lt. Stephen Swecker says he didn’t charge Hurst because his blood alcohol could likely be within the legal limit by the time a formal court-admissible test could be administered. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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