A high-ranking police official from Newport News recent admitted to drunk driving on Interstate 64 in Hampton last summer.
However, former assistant police chief Dawn D. Barber, who was demoted to captain, is now actively appealing her DUI conviction, despite saying she “regrets” her actions and takes “full responsibility.”
Barber’s appeal in Hampton Circuit Court says the case should be thrown out due to a judge’s refusal to accept a legal maneuver that would have allowed her to be sentenced for a lesser reckless driving offense. According to her attorney, the judge was required to accept the plea under state law.
The Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, not backing down and saying the judge did nothing wrong, has requested a trial by jury in the case.
A hearing on Barber’s motion to dismiss has been set for April 13, with a trial scheduled to begin on May 26.
On August 16, Barber, 44, was pulled over shortly after 9:30 p.m. after a Virginia State Police trooper said she was weaving in traffic and nearly collided with another vehicle on I-64.
According to the trooper who stopped Barber, she told him that she had consumed a “Texas-size” margarita at a restaurant a half hour earlier. He said she performed poorly on sobriety tests and a Breathalyzer test revealed her blood-alcohol content of 0.12 percent, more than the legal limit of 0.08.
Later, Barber was demoted one rank by Newport News Police Chief James Fox because of the incident. Her pay was also decreased by 4.7 percent from $87,675 to $83,500.
At the November court hearing, Barber’s attorney sought to have Barber’s possible punishment reduced. Virginia law says that someone charged with both DUI and reckless driving as part of the same incident, which they typically are in DUI cases, one charge must be dismissed by the judge.
Typically, judges will throw out the reckless driving charge, which carries a less severe punishment, a six-month driver’s license suspension instead of 12 months for DUI.However, Barber’s attorney sought to have her plead no contest to reckless driving, with the DUI charge automatically dismissed. General District Court Judge Albert W. Patrick III refused to accept the plea and found her guilty of DUI. He gave her the standard punishment for first offense DUI, a 30-day suspended jail term, a one-year restricted driver’s license allowing her to drive to work, a $250 fine, and a requirement to undergo alcohol counseling.