Appellate Court Discusses the Admissibility of Prior DUI Convictions in Recent Car Accident Case

In Virginia personal injury trials, the presiding judge has the power to determine which evidence the jury can consider. In doing so, the judge must consult with the rules of evidence, which are passed by the state legislature. As a general rule, only evidence that is relevant to the case may be considered. However, not all relevant information is admissible.

Police CarRelevant evidence may be inadmissible for a number of reasons. For example, hearsay evidence is generally excluded. Similarly, evidence that is very prejudicial to one party may be excluded even if it is technically relevant. In a recent car accident case, the court was tasked with determining whether a defendant’s two prior convictions for driving under the influence were admissible.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was on his way to work when he was involved in a head-on collision with another motorist, who was driving home from a bar. That driver was later determined to have a blood-alcohol content of .18, which is over twice the legal limit.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the allegedly drunk driver, seeking compensation for his injuries. At trial, the plaintiff attempted to introduce the defendant’s two prior DUI convictions, one from 1996 and another from 1983. The defendant objected to the admission of the convictions, arguing that they were not relevant. The defendant also argued that, even if the prior convictions were relevant, their admission into evidence would be too prejudicial compared to their probative value. The lower court allowed the convictions into evidence, and the plaintiff was awarded over $1,500,000.

The defendant appealed, again arguing that the evidence was not relevant. Specifically, the defendant claimed that the convictions were too old to be considered relevant. The court disagreed, explaining that the prior convictions were relevant for a limited purpose.

The court acknowledged that the prior convictions were not relevant to whether the defendant was negligent in this case, nor were they relevant in determining the plaintiff’s compensatory damages. However, the prior convictions were relevant to the determination of whether punitive damages were appropriate. The court explained that the prior convictions were relevant in that they tended to show that the defendant had not learned his lesson from his two prior convictions.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia DUI Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Attorney Charles B. Roberts has ample experience handling a wide range of personal injury matters, including DUI accident cases. With his assistance, you can rest assured that your case is in good hands. Call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Charles B. Roberts. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation on your part unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

See More Blog Posts:

The Importance of Properly Serving All Defendants in Virginia Personal Injury Lawsuits, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, May 1, 2017.

Tire Manufacturer Withholds Evidence, Although Court-Imposed Fine Reversed, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, May 10, 2017.