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'I am not above the law’: Del. Chris Hurst releases expanded statement after blowing .085 during traffic stop

Preliminary field breath test not admissible as evidence in court


CHRISTIANSBURG, Va.LATEST

Del. Chris Hurst released a longer statement Wednesday night after blowing .085 during a portable breath test during a traffic stop on Sunday morning. Hurst was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving.

Here’s his expanded statement:

To the people of the 12th District: Earlier this month, I swore to uphold the United States and Virginia constitutions...

Posted by Chris Hurst on Wednesday, January 29, 2020

ORIGINAL STORY

Del. Chris Hurst’s blood alcohol concentration came in above the legal limit when he was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving on Sunday, according to the Christiansburg Police Dept.

Authorities say Hurst was pulled over by an officer around 2 a.m. on the US-460 overpass between the downtown Christiansburg and Peppers Ferry Road exits.

The officer said he saw Hurst’s car swerve across the right side fog-line several times and drive over the speed limit for a short period of time.

When the officer pulled over Hurst and approached the car, he said he noticed Hurst’s eyes were red and he smelled alcohol coming from inside the vehicle.

After running Hurst’s license, the officer asked Hurst to follow his pen with his eyes. Once the officer noticed that Hurst was not able to do so smoothly, he asked Hurst to step out of the car to perform field sobriety tests.

The officer reportedly gave Hurst a preliminary field breath test, a portable breath test used in the field that is not admissible as evidence in court. Authorities said Hurst’s blood alcohol concentration came in at .085%, above the 0.80% legal limit.

Watch the full dashcam video of the traffic stop below:

According to the police department, the officer then determined that Hurst would be below the legal limit by the time he was able to bring him into the magistrate’s office for a formal breathalyzer test, which is the only admissible test in court. Because of this, Hurst’s performance during the field sobriety tests and the fact that he had a sober companion in the car who could drive him home, the officer said he released Hurst without charging him.

According to the officer, he was aware that Hurst is a delegate, but that was not mentioned by anyone during the traffic stop.

Here is a text message that Lt. Stephen Swecker, the officer who pulled over Hurst, sent to his superior after the traffic stop.

Text message from Lt. Stephen Swecker to his superior
Text message from Lt. Stephen Swecker to his superior (Christiansburg Police Department)

The Christiansburg Police Department also pointed out that because of an article in the Constitution of Virginia, it would be very unlikely for Hurst to be prosecuted in court, even if he had been arrested.

In an email to 10 News, Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt said, “Hurst was stopped and detained on suspicion of DUI by Lt. Stephen Swecker. No arrest was made. Under the Constitution, no arrest could have been made.”

Here is a part of the police department’s statement that explains this section further:

“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. Neither the officer nor Hurst mentioned this law, but the officer was aware of the law’s existence, because it’s taught during the police academy. This provision of the State Constitution makes it highly unlikely that Hurst could have prosecuted in court even if he had been arrested. The officer weighed all of the factors and made a judgement call, as is done each and every time an officer decides whether or not to make an arrest. 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.”Christiansburg Police Department

A legal source who is familiar with the Virginia constitution tells 10 News this goes back hundreds of years to protect the minority from the majority using police powers to keep them from voting during a session.

“This might seem farfetched nowadays but not hundreds of years ago when these came into existence it wasn’t,” the source said.

The lawyer also tells 10 news legislators are not immune, they just can’t be arrested during the session.

Del. Hurst released a statement, saying he “takes full responsibility” for what happened. Here’s his full statement:

Statement from Del. Chris Hurst after a traffic stop.
Statement from Del. Chris Hurst after a traffic stop. (WSLS)
“I am very sorry this happened and take full responsibility for exercising such poor judgment. This mistake is not something I take lightly. The work before us in the General Assembly this session is more important than ever before. I look forward to continued efforts to build a better 12th District and Commonwealth of Virginia.”Del. Chris Hurst

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