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Virginia Beach man sentenced to over three years in prison for DUI incident that left friend permanently impaired

James Lee Underwood.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — James Lee Underwood, 27, was sentenced to three years and 90-days in prison for the DUI incident that left his friend permanently injured after crashing his car in December 2017.

According to court documents, Underwood was at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront bar Calypso with his friend attending a party the night of the crash.

At the party, Underwood reportedly drank quite a bit of alcohol and smoked marijuana.

After the party, Underwood got in his car to drive his friend home, and while doing so, took a wrong turn.

Court documents would show that Underwood meant to make a right turn onto Interstate-64-West but instead went left, causing him to travel over the Rudee Bridge. This is when he would drive down the Owl’s Creek Boat Launch and into cold water.

A security guard at the Virginia Aquarium heard the commotion and called 911, and when an officer responded, he viewed Underwood holding onto a piling while his friend was facedown in the water.

The officer tried to save Underwood’s unconscious friend, but the water was too cold. Once another officer arrived, his friend was then saved from the cold water.

Underwood’s friend was unconscious and suffered serious brain damage as a result of being submerged in the water. He suffers from a significant permanent injury as a result of this crash, according to court documents.

Court documents also show that Underwood admitted to police that he felt intoxicated and that before the crash, his friend had asked him if he wanted to pull over due to his level of impairment.

Underwood’s blood alcohol content was reportedly .19, more than twice the legal limit.

The sentence that Underwood was given was much higher than the average sentencing for his crime. Virginia State Sentencing Guidelines’ usually recommends a sentence of no greater than six months.

Underwood was found guilty on the charges against him back on May 29, 2018.