By Linda Cicoira

      Hallwood Police Officer Allen W. Poulson pleaded guilty to DUI Thursday in Accomack Circuit Court. A felony charge of hit-and-run and misdemeanor counts of obstruction of justice and littering were not prosecuted.

      The plea was part of a plea agreement with special prosecutor Jack Thornton, an assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Northampton County. 

     Judge W. Revell Lewis III accepted the agreement and gave Poulson a 60-day suspended sentence. He was fined $1,000 with half suspended and ordered to complete a VASAP class. Poulson’s driver’s license was suspended for a year. He was then granted a restricted license that would allow him to drive to and from work and for doctor’s appointments, if needed. During the first six months of his restricted license, he will need to use an ignition lock in which he has to blow into a device to show his sobriety before he can start his vehicle.

      Poulson, a 41-year-old Seaside Avenue resident, who is also the son of Hallwood Mayor Jackie Poulson, admitted to authorities that he swerved into a ditch and hit a culvert with his pickup when a deer ran across his path. He did not testify at the trial, but previously denied dumping beer bottles and cans on the roadside before using his 4-wheel drive to get out of the ditch. The incidents occurred on Guard Shore Road, in Bloxom, in the early morning hours of Dec. 23, 2021.

     Poulson is appealing the denial of a motion to suppress evidence. Defense lawyer Mario Lorello contended Poulson and his property were part of an illegal search and seizure and any evidence obtained from those methods should be thrown out. Poulson could take back his plea if the motion is granted by a higher court.

      On the night the incident occurred, Poulson called 9-1-1 about the crash. He told the dispatcher about the crash and said he had things under control and there was no need to send investigators. He also told authorities he had called two troopers, the sheriff, and a game warden to tell them what had happened.

     Trooper Robert Flynn testified that he and two Accomack deputies responded to a landowner’s complaint about the crash. The landowner said he watched the driver dispose of beer containers at the scene.

     The officers found the damaged culvert, beer bottles and a beer can. The vehicle was gone. Since Poulson made the calls, they went to his home. There the officers found the dented pickup with more beer cans in its bed.

Poulson denied drinking before the accident. He said he had several beers and shots of liquor after he got home. Flynn said Poulson had slurred speech and smelled of alcohol, when they saw him about an hour after the crash. Two breathalyzer tests had deficient results. Flynn said a blood alcohol test was later taken at the hospital and showed .141. The legal limit is .08.

     At the suppression hearing, Lorello said four uniformed officers with marked cars blocking Poulson’s driveway constituted a “show of force.” He complained Poulson couldn’t leave and the tone of Flynn’s voice commanded Poulson to comply. He said the accusations were not serious enough to warrant the behavior.

     The prosecutor said Poulson gave his consent for the testing and that no constitutional rights were violated. He said the case Lorello cited was from the 1980s when driving under the influence was not considered as serious as it is today.  

     “In this situation, the officer had a right to investigate,” Judge Lewis said at the suppression hearing. “I do not believe he was coerced in any way.” On Thursday, Lewis “stayed the punishment until the appeal remedies are exhausted.”

     Prosecutor Thornton said as an officer entrusted with upholding the law, Poulson should be held to a higher standard.  He wanted the defendant to serve some weekends in jail.

     The defense argued that the suspended sentence was appropriate considering: Poulson has misdemeanor or felony history; he was with the Hallwood Police for four years prior to the incident; he has a good work ethic; he is a Coast Guard veteran; he reported the incident which likely would not otherwise have been connected to him; and he was cooperative with authorities when they showed up at his door.

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