“To those I have let down, I am deeply sorry.” Del. Chris Hurst releases more detailed statement after DUI traffic stop

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UPDATE 7:16 P.M.: Chris Hurst posted a lengthy message to his constituents on Facebook Wednesday night.

“The trooper makes a call – an independent call, based on his training and instruction – what he should do with it. Apparently he had doubts,” said Dirk Padgett, an attorney who specializes in DUI cases. He says Hurst’s swerving is as notable as his 0.085.

“It’s not the BAC, it’s the fact that you’re impaired,” he said.

Some say they would not have enjoyed the same benefit of the doubt.

“To be a delegate and- what he’s supposed to stand for, and get off with a warning? No,” said Christiansburg resident Steven Bean.

“I think he should be locked up like the rest of us, and treated like everybody else,” added Pulaski County resident Henry Hughes.

Padgett said Hurst’s status as a public official puts the officer in a tough spot, since Hurst likely would not have been convicted even if he had been arrested, but that the officer did not do anything incorrectly.

“But I’ll emphasize again, he did everything by the letter of the law, what you’re supposed to do. Because he is in the General Assembly. However, he did look out for public safety by making sure the passenger was driving,” he said.

UPDATE 6:14 P.M.: At the end of the video of Del. Chris Hurst’s traffic stop on suspicion of driving while intoxicated on Sunday, the officer lets Hurst go with a warning. Lt. Stephen Swecker allowed Hurst’s passenger – who blew a .06 and was not above the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 – to drive after the pair promised to head to a nearby Walmart to drink some water and sober up. Watch the traffic stop in the video above.

UPDATE 4:45 P.M.: Christiansburg Police have released the dashcam video of Del. Chris Hurst’s traffic stop early Sunday morning. (WFXR News has removed a 40 second section of video where Hurst lists his current medications. The section was removed to protect Hurst’s medical privacy.)

In the section of video showing Hurst’s field sobriety test, he explains to Christiansburg Police Lt. Stephen Swecker that he suffers from sciatica. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back to the legs.

UPDATE 2:56 P.M.: Delegate Chris Hurst (D-Blacksburg) released the following statement on his traffic stop:

I am very sorry this happened and take full responsibility for exercising such poor judgment. This mistake is not something I take lightly. The work before us in the General Assembly this session is more important than ever before. I look forward to continued efforts to build a better 12th District and Commonwealth of Virginia.

ORIGINAL STORY

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 nor 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 he was brought in.

The officer did not charge Hurst. The statement from the town said this 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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