Court official charged with DUI

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HILLSVILLE — An officer of the Carroll County Circuit Court was charged with driving while intoxicated last Friday after a deputy saw a vehicle driving recklessly on Training Center Road near U.S. 58 in the county.

Charged was James Thomas Ward, 53, of Galax, who serves as commissioner of accounts — an appointed officer of the Carroll County Circuit Court.

Carroll Deputy B.R. Melton observed a vehicle crossing the center line and the outside line four times each, according to a warrant filed in Carroll County General District Court.

The deputy said the vehicle almost crashed into a stop sign at the Training Center/U.S. 58 intersection.

In speaking to the driver — identified as Ward by court papers — Melton noticed a strong odor of what appeared to be an alcoholic beverage, court records showed.

The deputy conducted field sobriety tests, and Ward refused a breath test, court records said.

Melton charged Ward with driving under the influence and reckless driving, according to court records.

Though court records show the DUI charge as Ward's first, the former Galax city attorney and former two-term Carroll commonwealth’s attorney was originally charged with driving under the influence on Nov. 11, 2004, after he was pulled over by Virginia State Police near Midway Heights in Carroll County.

Police said Ward’s vehicle was weaving. A test showed his blood-alcohol content at the time was 2.5 times the legal limit. The charge was taken under advisement for nearly two years before Ward was convicted in 2006 of a lesser charge of reckless driving.

According to a state police report from the 2004 incident, Ward’s vehicle rolled back and struck a patrol car after he was stopped, though he was not charged for the estimated $1,000 in damage to the police vehicle.

Judges of the various circuit courts across Virginia appoint one or more commissioner of accounts in their respective jurisdictions. Estate inventories and accountings are filed with the commissioner.

The commissioner assists the court in reviewing inventories and auditing accounts, determines sufficiency of fiduciary bonds, conduct hearings on creditors’ claims and resolves other issues that arise in administering an estate.