New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger will make his fifth appearance in court on Tuesday, Dec. 10 to address charges of driving while impaired during a traffic stop in Wilmington nearly one year ago.
Berger was stopped at 2 a.m., Dec. 18, 2012, for an unsafe movement violation, which also resulted in the DWI charge. At the time of the arrest, Berger’s blood-alcohol content was 0.08 percent, the legal limit in North Carolina. His most recent appearance was Sept. 11, at which time New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David opted to continue the case to await the results of a blood test from the backlogged State Bureau of Investigation crime lab and to get an outside judge to try the case.
Samantha Dooies, David’s administrative assistant, confirmed on Dec. 3 that an outside judge had been assigned to the case. At Berger’s previous appearance, his lawyer, James “Buddy” Allard Jr. of Hewlett, Collins and Allard LLP raised concerns that Berger’s high profile could create a bias were the case heard by a local judge.
Dooies said David was unavailable for comment, but added his office had subpoenaed the stopping officer in the case, who has been reassigned to New Jersey since Berger’s arrest.
“We’ve got an analyst, we’ve got an officer we’ve got all of that involved, so it’s going to be pretty typical,” Dooies said, adding that this type of case usually results in a probationary sentence.
However, depending on the results of the blood test, which will check for traces of prescription or other drugs in Berger’s system at the time of his arrest, the outcome of this case could impact his status as a county commissioner, which has been in flux during the past year.
Dooies said she could not comment on the findings of the blood test. She was unable to answer questions related to possible sentencing, and did not return repeated phone calls as of press time.