A Charlottesville woman pleaded guilty to child endangerment, driving on a suspended license and her fourth DUI offense in Albemarle County Circuit Court on Wednesday afternoon.
Santana Faulkner, 27, was arrested in the early morning hours Dec. 14 in the 500 block of East Rio Road after a police officer observed her driving 80 mph in a 40 mph zone, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Elliott J. Casey said in court Wednesday.
Faulkner’s then 3-year-old son was a passenger in the automobile.
A blood test revealed that Faulkner had been using the drug PCP prior to her arrest. Casey told Judge Cheryl Higgins that Faulkner had “a vacant inability to understand commands and directions.” When an officer asked for Faulkner name and date of birth, Casey said she wrote down only the numbers 5, 2 and 3.
Faulkner had a different recollection of the events.
“[The officer] asked specific questions and I gave him specific answers,” she said, explaining that she was driving her boyfriend’s friend back to his vehicle when she was stopped. She told the judge she did not think there was anything wrong with her driving.
Faulkner admitted to smoking PCP the day before her arrest. Because of the drug’s lengthy half-life, Faulkner could have still been under the influence at the time of the incident, said Jason Hudson, a forensic pathologist for the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.
“We don’t see a lot of PCP and driving … a person tends to be more in a comatose state,” Hudson testified Wednesday.
Faulkner was convicted of DUIs in Albemarle County, Madison County and Richmond in 2011. She will answer to another DUI charge in Greene County in August.
“At the time, Ms. Faulkner was stopped she only had two prior convictions,” Stephanie Commander, one of Faulkner’s defense attorneys, said in court.
In exchange for her guilty plea, Casey agreed to drop Faulkner’s driving on a suspended license charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. He said he did not want to “bind the court” with the matter.
Faulkner showed signs of hesitation as Higgins questioned her about the crimes and her guilty plea. Faulkner said she agreed to the plea agreement “because if I go forward with this case more than likely I’ll be found guilty anyway,” and because she knew she would face “more harsh charges” if the case went to trial.
“Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty of the crime?” Higgins asked.
“No, ma’am,” Faulkner responded. She told the judge she was not satisfied with her lawyers because they only gave her 24 hours to accept the terms of the plea agreement.
“I’ve entered into a plea agreement … I’m not sure if anything is in my favor,” Faulkner explained, and said she wanted to go forward with the plea.
Higgins accepted the agreement, and said Faulkner could face as much as 11 years in prison and $7,500 in fines for the crimes.
Faulkner is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 5.