In a unique turn of events, a Roanoke County General District Court judge dropped a pending DUI charge against former county official Doug Chittum after Chittum spent time in jail following a court hearing on his June 2011, arrest. The charge resulted from a June 28, 2011, traffic stop in which Chittum was reportedly staggering, slurring his speech and emanating an odor of alcohol.
The fact that the charge was dropped is unique because Chittum actually pled "no contest" to the drunk driving charge when he appeared in court on February 8, 2012. He was also facing a civil citation for failing to take a breath or blood alcohol test, but prosecutors agreed to drop that in exchange for his plea.
The judge presiding over his case chose to accept his plea but wasn't ready to administer punishment during the court appearance earlier this month. Instead she revoked his bond, leaving Chittum behind bars until she was ready to announce sentencing.
In a surprise twist, though, after she reconvened the proceeding, the judge accepted a request from Chittum's defense counsel seeking that the DUI charge be reduced to reckless driving. Reckless driving is still a serious charge, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, but the law does not judge it as harshly as a conviction for even a first-time DWI/DUI.
Judge Vincent Lilley's rationale was that a drunk driving conviction would have barred Chittum from performing his trained profession of economic development in the public sector. He credits Chittim's time in jail - and the reports that he counseled fellow inmates and tried to encourage them to turn their lives around - for the decision.
In Judge Lilley's own words, "society is better off with [Chittum] being able to follow [his] training and get a job in economic development."
Source: The Roanoke Times, "No DUI conviction for former Roanoke County official," Katelyn Polantz, Feb. 17, 2012