Investigating Suspected DUI Crashes in Virginia

There were 122,434 crashes in Virginia during 2022, with 1005 fatalities and 59,404 people injured. When a car accident occurs in Virginia, law enforcement will investigate to determine the cause. If the crash is suspected to be the result of drunk driving, there are specific procedures and evidence that will be gathered as part of the investigation.

Identifying Impaired Driving

The first step in a DUI crash investigation is for the responding officer to observe signs that the driver may be impaired. This can include things like:

  • Erratic or unsafe driving behavior prior to the crash
  • The smell of alcohol or drugs on the driver’s breath
  • Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or other physical indicators of intoxication
  • The driver admitting to consuming alcohol or drugs

If the officer observes signs like this, they will conduct field sobriety tests to assess the driver’s level of impairment. This typically includes tests like the standardized field sobriety test battery, which looks at the driver’s balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions.

Chemical Testing

If the field sobriety tests indicate the driver is impaired, the officer will then ask the driver to submit to a preliminary breath test using a handheld breathalyzer device. This will provide an initial measurement of the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC).

Depending on the results of the preliminary breath test, the driver may then be placed under arrest for DUI. At the police station, the driver will be asked to submit to an official chemical test, which is usually a more sophisticated breathalyzer machine. Refusal to take this test can result in an automatic license suspension.

In some cases, the officer may also request a blood draw to test the driver’s BAC. This is more common if the driver appears to be impaired by drugs rather than just alcohol.

Gathering Physical Evidence

In addition to the chemical testing, the investigating officer will also document and collect other physical evidence from the crash scene. This can include:

  • Skid marks, gouge marks, or other signs of braking or evasive maneuvers
  • Debris field and damage to the vehicles involved
  • Any open or empty alcohol containers found in the vehicle
  • Surveillance camera footage from nearby businesses or private homes

This physical evidence can help corroborate the officer’s observations and the results of the chemical testing.

Toxicology Reports

If the driver is seriously injured and transported to a hospital in Virginia, the officer may obtain a warrant to have the hospital staff draw a blood sample. This blood sample will then be sent to a forensic laboratory for a comprehensive toxicology analysis.

The toxicology report can detect the presence and concentration of alcohol, as well as any prescription medications, illegal drugs, or other intoxicating substances in the driver’s system. This information is crucial evidence in a DUI crash investigation.

Documenting the Investigation

Throughout the investigation, the responding officer will document everything in an official police report. This report will include details about the crash scene, the officer’s observations of the driver, the results of the field sobriety and chemical tests, and any other relevant evidence collected.

The police report, along with the toxicology results and other physical evidence, will serve as the foundation for any criminal DUI charges filed against the impaired driver. This evidence may also be crucial in a subsequent civil lawsuit by the injured victims seeking compensation for their damages.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver in Virginia, it’s important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you navigate the legal process and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Monge & Associates has offices in 32 locations and 19 states, including Virginia, South Carolina, and Alabama.

Get in touch today and call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597 if you’ve been hurt in an accident with an intoxicated driver.