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Coffman v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Virginia

January 10, 2017

MICHAEL SCOTT COFFMAN
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

         FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF ROANOKE COUNTY James R. Swanson, Judge

          Dirk B. Padgett (Dirk Padgett Law PLLC, on brief), for appellant.

          Victoria Johnson, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

          Present: Judges Petty, Russell and Malveaux Argued at Lexington, Virginia

          OPINION

          WILLIAM G. PETTY, JUDGE

         Michael Scott Coffman was convicted of driving while under the influence in violation of Code § 18.2-266. Coffman argues that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence the certificate of analysis from a blood sample that was obtained by a nurse who was not designated by an order of the circuit court to withdraw blood; he argues that such prior designation is required by Code § 18.2-268.5. For the following reason, we disagree and affirm Coffman's conviction.

         I. Background

         On January 11, 2015, during the investigation of a one-car accident in Roanoke County, Coffman was arrested for driving while under the influence. The arresting officer took Coffman to LewisGale Regional Hospital because he complained of shoulder pain. After the arresting officer informed Coffman of Virginia's implied consent law, [1] Coffman consented to a blood test. A registered nurse at the hospital drew a sample of Coffman's blood.

         At trial, Coffman objected to admission into evidence of the certificate of analysis from the blood sample, which showed a blood alcohol content of .208%. He argued that the certificate was not admissible because the registered nurse had not been designated by court order to withdraw blood for purposes of determining alcohol content and that such prior designation was required by Code § 18.2-268.5.[2] The trial court overruled his objection, admitted the certificate of analysis into evidence, and convicted Coffman of driving while under the influence in violation of Code § 18.2-266. Coffman now appeals his conviction, challenging the trial court's decision to admit the certificate of analysis into evidence.

         II. Standard of Review

         A trial court's evidentiary ruling is reviewed "under an abuse of discretion standard." Boyce v. Commonwealth, 279 Va. 644, 649, 691 S.E.2d 782, 784 (2010). Furthermore,

[a] trial court "by definition abuses its discretion when it makes an error of law . . . . The abuse-of-discretion standard includes review to determine that the discretion was not guided by erroneous legal conclusions." Porter v. Commonwealth, 276 Va. 203, 260, 661 S.E.2d 415, 445 (2008) (quoting Koon v. United States, 518 U.S. 81, 100 (1996)). To the extent that determinations . . . involve the interpretation of a statute or the common law, such an interpretation is a question of law reviewed de novo on appeal. See Woodard v. Commonwealth, 287 Va. 276, 280, 754 S.E.2d 309, 311 (2014); Country Vintner, Inc. v. Louis Latour, Inc., 272 Va. 402, 410, 634 S.E.2d 745, 750 (2006).

Commonwealth v. Greer, 63 Va.App. 561, 568, 760 S.E.2d 132, 135 ...


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