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Judge escapes DUI conviction

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A Wytheville judge accused of driving under the influence pleaded guilty last Tuesday in Smyth County General District Court to a reduced charge of reckless driving.

Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Michael Keith Blankenship, 44, of Wytheville also pleaded guilty to refusing to submit to a Breathalyzer test. He was fined $100 and his license was suspended for one year, according to the court clerk’s office.

Blankenship sits in the 27th Judicial District, which includes Carroll and Grayson counties and the City of Galax. He is also a former Wythe County commonwealth’s attorney.

The conviction is in relation to an incident March 1.

Blankenship was pulled over that evening on Interstate 81 between Chilhowie and Marion and charged with driving under the influence and refusal to take a Breathalyzer.

Blankenship is scheduled to appear June 27 in Powhatan County General District Court to face a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge for another driving incident.

Virginia State Police charged Blankenship on May 3 after witnesses identified him as the driver who left the scene of a crash that occurred about 5:15 p.m. April 27 in Powhatan County. The 2006 Subaru Forester ran off the side of Huguenot Springs Road and hit a telephone-line box. The car continued into an adjacent yard before crossing back over the road and hitting an embankment on the left side, uprooting a tree.

After talking with witnesses, troopers tracked Blankenship down at a hotel in Chesterfield County the following morning and charged him, said state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.