On July 22, a man from Campbell County who was charged with his fourth offense for driving under the influence in January, in addition to driving recklessly 23 mph over the speed limit with his toddler and infant in the back seat, was cleared of child endangerment charges.
Campbell County Deputy R.S. Layne testified in court that 31-year-old Rustburg resident Christopher Shane Litchford was pulled over at approximately 5 p.m. on January 16. He said that in the back of Litchford’s car at the time were his 2-year-old and 3 ½-month-old children.
Litchford was found guilty of his fourth DUI in 10 years and driving on a revoked license in a short bench trial before Judge John Cook.
Cook dismissed two charges of felony child endangerment against Litchford, saying that the DUI alone was not sufficient to show that Litchford had committed a “willful and wanton” act needed to prove he’d endangered his children.
Layne testified that he stopped Litchford after spotting hi driving 58 mph in a 35 mph zone on Lynbrook Road. He said that when Litchford was later given a breath test in Lynchburg, his blood-alcohol content measured to be 0.10 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Layne testified that, other than speeding, he did not see Litchford weaving or driving erratically. He also said that Litchford immediately pulled over after he got behind him. The judge cited this testimony in dismissing the endangerment charges.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Sally Steel said that this is the second similar DUI child endangerment case within the month of July to be dismissed in Campbell County Circuit Court due to the judge ruling there to have been insufficient evidence to prove the driver had done more than drive drunk with children in the vehicle.
Cook noted that Litchford had been convicted of DUI with children in the car, which carries an enhanced penalty.
Virginia law says that a person convicted of a fourth DUI within a 10 year period is required to serve at least one year in prison and pay a fine of $1,000. An additional five days in jail and minimum fine of $500 are added for drivers convicted of DUI with child passengers.
Cook said that the reckless driving and DUI charges were exclusive in his dismissal of the reckless driving charge.