Conviction of Virginia Firefighter Upheld

The Virginia Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of a firefighter on criminal charges of the unauthorized use of a vehicle because he drove a fire truck that he was not authorized to drive, to an emergency. Charles Raymond Arrington was convicted of violating VA Code § 18.2-102 over an incident that occurred on March 11, 2020.

Arrington had been a paid firefighter with the Clifton Forge Fire Department from August 2018 to February 2020. His driver’s license lapsed and he was terminated by the department. The next day, he renewed his license, but never reapplied for his position. Rather, he opted to volunteer for the department.

As explained in the court of appeals decision:

  • The Clifton Forge Fire Department had a well-established policy that volunteers could not drive emergency vehicles without explicit permission from Chief Jeremy Nicely and Superintendent Robert Boyd.
  • Arrington admitted that he knew he was not allowed “to get behind the wheel and take [a fire truck] out and drive it.”
  • On March 11, 2020, after hearing an alert about a fire at the Masonic Theater, Arrington drove his personal truck to the fire station to see if he could assist.
  •  By the time he got there, Chief Nicely and Superintendent Boyd had left for the scene.
  • Two other volunteers also showed up to help-Frank Caldwell and Christian Harless.
  • Knowing that he was not allowed to drive the fire truck, Arrington got behind the wheel anyway and started it up to respond to the call.
  • Caldwell and Harless jumped in to ride along.
  • But a compartment door on the truck had been left open.
  • And as Arrington backed out, the truck collided with the garage door, shearing off the compartment door.
  • Arrington was indicted for the unauthorized use of a vehicle belonging to the Clifton Forge Fire Department.
  • At his bench trial, Arrington moved to strike the evidence, arguing that the Commonwealth failed to prove “any kind of deprivation” of possession or that Arrington had “the intent to deprive” the department of possession.
  • The court denied the motion and found Arrington guilty as charged.
  • The court sentenced him to twelve months’ incarceration, all suspended, plus two years of unsupervised probation.
  • Arrington was also ordered to pay $21,947.64 in restitution to the two insurance companies that had paid the department’s property-damage claims.

Arrington appealed his conviction, arguing that the state could not prove he drove the apparatus without the fire department’s consent, or in the alternative, that he intended to temporarily deprive the fire department of its use of the apparatus – because he was driving for the fire department’s benefit. Both arguments were unavailing, for different reasons.

As to the consent to drive, the court of appeals concluded Arrington admitted under oath he knew he was not authorized to drive the apparatus, thereby establishing he knew he lacked consent. As to his intent to deprive the fire department, the court of appeals refused to consider the argument because the issue was not properly raised and preserved.

Here is the decision:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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