Commonwealth v. James Lee Underwood; Drunk Driver Sentenced to over 3 Years in Owls Creek Crash; Victim Permanently Impaired

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Colin D. Stolle, Commonwealth's Attorney for the city of Virginia Beach, announced that James Lee Underwood, 27 years old, was sentenced today by Circuit Court Judge Glenn R. Croshaw for DUI – Victim Permanently Impaired and DUI.  Judge Croshaw sentenced Underwood to five (5) years and 12 months, all suspended except three (3) years and 90 days to serve. This sentence was significantly higher than the Virginia State Sentencing Guidelines' recommendation, which called for a sentence no greater than six (6) months. 

Underwood was found guilty by Judge Croshaw after a trial on May 29, 2018.  The Commonwealth's evidence proved that on the evening of December 18, 2017, James Lee Underwood and his friend attended a party at a bar, Calypso, at the oceanfront.  Underwood drank quite a bit of alcohol that night and smoked marijuana.  Shortly after midnight, Underwood attempted to drive his friend home to Norfolk.  Instead of making a right turn toward Interstate 264-West, Underwood made a left turn heading over the Rudee Bridge.  He crashed his vehicle after driving down the Owl's Creek Boat Launch into cold water.  Underwood and his passenger both exited the vehicle into the water.  A security guard who worked for the Virginia Aquarium heard the commotion and called 911. 

When police arrived on scene, they found Underwood holding onto a piling and his passenger face down in the water.  The first officer attempted a water save but immediately realized the water was too frigid.  A second officer arrived on scene and entered the water.  He pulled the victim from the water.  The victim was unconscious and suffered serious brain damage as a result of being submerged in water.  He suffers significant permanent injury as a result of this crash. 

Underwood admitted to police that he felt intoxicated and that, prior to the crash, his friend had asked him if he wanted to pull over due to his level of impairment.  His blood alcohol content was .19, which is more than twice the legal limit.    ​

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Janeé D. Joslin prosecuted this case. Please contact Macie Allen if additional information is desired.