Delegate pleads guilty to DUI

Published 10:04 pm Monday, April 22, 2019

A state delegate pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in a Portsmouth General District Court hearing Monday morning.

Delegate Matthew James, who represents part of Suffolk, pleaded guilty to first-offense driving under the influence as part of a plea agreement. He initially was charged with driving under the influence with an alleged blood alcohol level of .18 on a breathalyzer test, as well as reckless driving.

The amended charge of first-offense driving under the influence does not include the .18 result, and the reckless driving will not be prosecuted. Virginia code sets a mandatory minimum of five days in jail for a blood alcohol level between .15 and .20, so it was significant that the amended charge did not include the elevated blood alcohol level.

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James was sentenced to 60 days in jail, with all of it suspended after a period of one year of good behavior. He’ll also be required to have an ignition interlock device on his vehicle, have a restricted license for one year, complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program and pay a $300 fine plus court costs.

James had no comment after the court hearing.

The arrest happened on Sept. 22. According to a criminal complaint, a law enforcement officer observed a vehicle go through a stop sign and almost strike another vehicle on Greenwood Drive after exiting Interstate 264 westbound. After following the vehicle, the officer observed the vehicle “crossed the solid white line and drove while straddling it for approximately three seconds,” according to the document filed in Portsmouth General District Court.

After being pulled over, according to the complaint, James allegedly provided the officer with an expired driver’s license and exited the vehicle to attempt to find his registration. As he attempted to do so, he was observed “placing his hand on the vehicle and steadying himself.” The officer “smelled an alcoholic beverage” when he approached the vehicle, he wrote in the complaint.

James performed poorly on several field sobriety tests, the document stated, and was placed under arrest.