CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — A well-known Blacksburg legislator was pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated early Sunday, Jan. 26.
Del. Chris Hurst (D-Blacksburg) was pulled over around 2 a.m. Sunday on U.S. 460 Bypass between downtown Christiansburg and the Peppers Ferry Road exits, according to a statement from Public Relations Director Melissa Demmitt of the town of Christiansburg.
Demmitt said Hurst was driving west toward Blacksburg early Sunday morning when Lt. Stephen Swecker saw Hurst’s vehicle swerve across the right-side fog line “several times.” Hurst was also driving over the speed limit “for a brief period of time,” Demmitt added.
When Swecker approached Hurst’s car, he said Hurst’s eyes were red and “[the officer] smelled the odor of alcohol coming from within the vehicle.”
Demmitt’s statement said Swecker knew who Hurst was, but “neither the officer not Hurst mentioned this fact at any time during the encounter.”
Hurst was given field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer test. He blew blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .085, Demmitt said. Swecker declined to bring Hurst in for a formal breath test at the magistrate’s office, which Demmitt said is the only court admissible test. Swecker reportedly believed Hurst would be under the legal limit by the time Hurst was brought in.
The officer did not charge Hurst. The statement from the city said it was because of Hurst’s performance on the field sobriety tests and because a passenger with Hurst was able to drive him home.
The same statement went onto say that Section IV, Article 9 of the Constitution of Virginia makes legislators immune from arrest while the General Assembly is in session unless they have committed treason, a felony, or a breach of the peace. Driving under the influence is a misdemeanor in Virginia until the third offense.
“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,” Demmitt said. “This provision of the State Constitution makes it highly unlikely that Hurst could have [been] prosecuted in court even if he had been arrested. The officer weighed all of the factors and made a judgement (sic) call, as is done each and every time an officer decides whether or not to make an arrest.”
Hurst, 32, is a former anchor for WDBJ-TV in Roanoke. He ran for his first term in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017. He won re-election in 2019.
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