Newport News police captain Dawn D. Barber has long admitted to driving under the influence on Interstate 64 last summer while returning from a restaurant. On Monday, April 13, she was convicted of the charge.
On Monday Barber, who was demoted from her position as assistant chief after being arrested for DUI in August, pleaded guilty to the charge. That came in the wake of Hampton Circuit Court Judge Bonnie L. Jones denying a motion contending that a lower court was in error in a November hearing in which the court did not accept a legal maneuver that would have resulted in her being found guilty of a lesser charge.
Barber’s attorney had asserted that the law obligated General District Court Judge Albert W. Patrick to accept the procedure. He asked that the DUI conviction be “voided” and a reckless driving conviction be imposed instead.
After a hearing that lasted an hour, the motion was denied by Jones.
Jones said that state law provides Circuit Court judges with the authority to hear appeals of lower court cases, such as a new trial on the DUI charge, but not to “unravel” lower court procedures.
On August 16, Barber, 44, was pulled over at approximately 9:40 p.m. after a state trooper said that she had been weaving in traffic and nearly struck another vehicle.
Barber was given a breath test and her blood-alcohol content was measured to be 0.12, exceeding the legal limit of 0.08.
State law says that when a person is charged with both DUI and reckless driving as part of the same incident, as is typical in DUI cases, judges are required to dismiss one of the charges. The reckless driving count, which carries a lighter punishment, is typically the one thrown out.
However, Barber’s attorney sought to have her plead no contest to the reckless driving charge and have the DUI charge dismissed because only one charge could proceed. He cited part of a state law that says, “The court shall not refuse to accept a plea of (no contest).”However, Patrick refused to accept the maneuver and found Barber guilty of DUI. She was given the usual punishment for a first offense, 30-days suspended jail time, a one-year driver’s license restriction allowing her to drive for work, a $250 fine, and mandatory alcohol counseling.