Driver in funeral procession broke law, missed burial

Spinner snapped a photo of her brother-in-law being pulled over on June 12 just past the intersection of Duke Street and S. Walker Street in Alexandria, Va. (Courtesy Heather Spinner)

WASHINGTON — A man pulled over by an Alexandria police officer for running a red light while driving in a funeral procession broke the law, according to police.

Because the procession was led by a funeral home vehicle, and not a police vehicle, police confirm the driver didn’t have the right to run through the red light.

At the time WTOP broke the story earlier this week, it was unclear to both police and the driver if he had the right of way. So WTOP turned to Virginia state law.

The law states drivers in a funeral procession have the right of way if escorted by police, but doesn’t outline what the driver’s rights are if escorted by a vehicle issued by a funeral home.

“We were just told to follow very closely one another and continue from the church to the cemetery.”

Heather Spinner says the officer’s decision to pull her brother-in-law over for running a red light during the procession to his great grandmother’s funeral last Thursday caused part of her family to miss the burial.

She filed a formal complaint with police.

Alexandria Police Sgt. Seth Weinstein told her the ticketing officer’s supervisors would review tape from the intersection to see if her brother-in-law had followed too far behind the rest of the procession.

“[I was told] they would be reviewing the red light camera tape to determine the following distance,” Spinner says of her meeting with police Monday.

Alexandria Police say they don’t know what came of the tape review, but now point to the law which requires a police escort for funeral processions to bypass traffic laws.

The Spinner family had a funeral home car escorting them.

“If they want to use that as a technicality and it’s the law then that’s fine, I just think that it’s a little tacky,” Spinner says.

For clarification, neighboring Fairfax County Police say if a procession is led by anything other than a police vehicle in Virginia, the procession must follow all traffic laws.

An officer there called the act of stopping someone in a funeral procession bad form, but confirmed without an officer controlling the intersection, drivers in a procession must obey the rules of the road.

Alexandria police say their investigation into the incident is on-going.

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