IDA member prosecuted on DUI charges

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 30, 2002

A member of Suffolk’s Industrial Development Authority appeared before a General District Court judge Tuesday to face several charges including driving a garden tractor on city streets while intoxicated and assaulting a police officer.

Mills A. March, who is also an agent for Nationwide Insurance, pled guilty in Suffolk’s General District Court to driving under the influence of alcohol. Suffolk Police officers also charged him with reckless driving, refusing to take a blood or breath test and assaulting a police officer.

March was stopped by police officers late Friday evening, Sept. 6. He’d been observed driving his garden tractor erratically along Washington and Broad streets in Downtown Suffolk.

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When police officers attempted to pull him over and make the stop, March continued along the streets until he ran the tractor into a ditch. A police vehicle was damaged in the incident, and an officer was assaulted when several attempted to physically remove March from the tractor.

At the time of his arrest, March told police he’d been to cut grass with the tractor at one of his rental properties.

Because he pled guilty on the DUI charge, the assault and battery of the officer was reduced to misdemeanor assault, and March was sentenced to 12 months in jail, a one year revocation of his driver’s license, and he was ordered to pay a fine of $2,500. The jail time was suspended, refusing to take the blood or breath tests was not prosecuted, and the reckless driving was dismissed, all in exchange for the guilty plea on the DUI.

When someone is found guilty of DUI, the reckless driving charge is automatically dismissed.

Judge G. Blair Harry listened as March’s attorney, E. Grier Ferguson, explained that his client needed the driver’s license in order to travel to and from work and to check on his rental properties. March also advised the judge that for medical reasons, he must be able to drive to the YMCA for therapeutic exercise.

Judge Harry said he’d allow March to drive from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to check on his rental properties, and he said he’d allow trips to the Y if March submitted a letter from his doctor stating that he needed to go to the exercise center. However, the judge was adamant about the hours March is allowed to drive.

&uot;In no event are you allowed to drive before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.,&uot; the judge commanded. &uot;That’s allowable six days a week, and there are no exceptions and no night driving even if a pipe bursts or you have any other problems with your property.&uot;

The judge let the $2,500 fine stand, but March was ordered to put in 60 hours of community services and he must exhibit &uot;good behavior&uot; for the next year. March must also participate in an Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP).

Since Ferguson is the brother of Suffolk’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, C. Phillips Ferguson, David J. Whitted, assistant Commonwealth’s attorney for Chesapeake, served as prosecutor for the Suffolk trial.