By on March 2, 2018

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A bill seeking to amend Virginia’s DUI laws passed through the state Senate last month, but don’t expect the law to make it onto the books. The legislation aimed to make intoxicated driving legal if a driver performed the boozy feat on his or her own private property, with all other existing laws remaining the same.

As you might expect, this didn’t go over well with law enforcement, politicians, safety advocates, and various other concerned citizenry.

Introduced by Sen. Richard Stuart, the bill amended existing impaired driving laws with the statement, “This section shall not apply to any person driving or operating a motor vehicle  on his own residential property or the curtilage thereof.”

Currently, violation of a DUI law leaves one on the hook for a number of penalties in the state of Virginia. Drivers could face a license suspension, $500 fine (at a minimum), or 50 hours of community service. The law forbids operation of a motor vehicle — meaning car, motorcycle, ATV, moped or train — anywhere in the state, meaning rural landowners with large properties could find themselves facing the long arm of the law after quaffing too many Coors Banquets while tooling around the back 40.

After a Senate committee sidelined his bill out of fear it was too broad, the senator changed his initial proposed amendment, adding specifics. It was this version the committee passed, as well as the Senate. Stuart claims the operation of a motor vehicle wasn’t at the forefront of his mind when he tabled the bill. Rather, it was cases where citizens are charged for drinking in a parked car in their own driveway.

“The bill had to do with a DUI on your private property or current property,” he said later. “And by trying to define where you could actually be charged with it, I think my bill went a little too broad.”

The outcry was immediate, with many calling the law a first step on a slippery slope. Among its detractors were the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys and Washington Regional Alcohol Program. A spokesperson for the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police said that, for supporters, the bill came down to property rights and the ability to not have the state interfere with the enjoyment of that private property. The spokesperson did admit it sent a mixed safety message to youth.

In theory, potentially dangerous operation of a vehicle would be contained to the person’s property, less the cops pounce. However, opponents claimed a person drinking in a vehicle on private property can’t be counted on to stay there.

It’s probably a debate that’s dead in the water because, as of today, so is the bill. A Virginia House panel reportedly voted down the bill on Friday.

Driving under the influence is illegal in all 50 states, though some state laws are vague on whether that applies to private property. In many, DUI laws apply to all places and properties, while others make the distinction of “public” property. Still others add mud to the water by forbidding intoxicated driving on properties that are accessible to the public, which aptly describes most non-gated yards and properties.

These vague distinctions are just one of the reasons why lawyers will always exist.

[Sources: NBC 12, USA Today]

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38 Comments on “It’s looking like Virginians Won’t Get a Chance to Legally Drink and Drive at Home...”

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    That’s stupid. I mean yeah, it’s monumentally stupid to drink and drive, but let’s say I owned 100 acres of land like my family does and wanted to drunkenly bounce around the woods in my SUV or ATV? Whose business is that? Of course it’s a dumb thing to do but why should it be illegal?

  • avatar

    I heard a tale where a guy got a DUI washing his car in his front yard because he was also having a beer.

    • 0 avatar

      Reminds me of a story I saw where a cop pulled into a windshield repair shop and cited a vehicle for having defective equipment.

      People call me crazy for not taking advantage of some situations at work but sociopaths can and do take advantage of low hanging fruit regardless of the consequences as long as it advances their position in some manner.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m waiting for the law that automatically tacks perjury onto a criminal conviction, because the defendant lied when he stated under oath that he didn’t do it.

        Back on topic, I don’t understand why there’s even a law in the first place that says it’s a DUI if you do it on your own property.

        This is why to some degree, the very IDEA of law is absurd.

        Honest people don’t need them, criminals don’t obey them and the worst of us know exactly where the lines are drawn.

    • 0 avatar

      “I heard a tale where a guy got a DUI washing his car in his front yard because he was also having a beer.”

      Pretty common occurrence in front yards everywhere and a lot of other places like tailgate parties at the stadium, Saturdays in the Park, 4th of July Fireworks Displays, at RV and Campgrounds, etc.

      Someone, somewhere, somehow is bound to take offense and call the law, even if the offenders keep to themselves and don’t bother anyone.

      Many people in my neck of the woods have one of those Coleman PowerChill Thermoelectric Coolers in their truck that they keep filled with Beer.

      On a recent trip to the Four Corners Monument, my sister and her husband had two of those ice-less coolers, one filled with beer, the other with soft drinks. If you’ve ever been to Four Corners, it gets real hot there in the summer and a couple of cold beers REALLY hit the spot.

      • 0 avatar

        “Someone, somewhere, somehow is bound to take offense and call the law, even if the offenders keep to themselves and don’t bother anyone.”

        That’s why ONE complaint should never be grounds for official investigation. A pattern of 10-15 independent, verifiable complaints would be okay, but not ONE.

        And while we’re at it, do away with anonymous snitch lines. A man’s got a right to face his accuser, and the accuser has to substantiate his accusation.

  • avatar

    Probably just a way for the system to skirt search warrants.

    “I heard that there was drinking going on in a car, I’m going to take a look”.

    “You can’t come on my property and do that”

    “Yes I can”.

    There’s a guy in Texas suing the border patrol and Texas Rangers. He lives 35 miles from the border. Someone put up a camera on his property. He took it down. The state and feds say it is their property (the camera) and they have the right to put it on his property. And that HE is breaking the law because he won’t give it back. He also says the state and Feds crawl all over his land day and nights because “we can”.

    I learned that there is some kind of federal law that within 25 miles of a border, your property rights go down the toilet. And this guy is 35 miles away. The border patrol says they have a right to disregard property rights up to 100 miles from a border.

    Google search “camera border patrol texas 35 miles”

    • 0 avatar

      Federal regulations give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authority to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. “external boundary.” The Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf are external boundaries, in addition to the Canadian and Mexican borders.
      Therefore, 200 million US residents live within 100 miles of external boundaries. Don’t you just love regulations with the force of law?
      Re: cars – they cannot pull you over without reasonable suspicion of an ICE violation and cannot search your car without a warrant or probable cause. Of course, they occasionally will. There are some videos from with dash cams that are pretty interesting – just like all authorities, CBP overstep their bounds out of ignorance or arrogance. I wonder how many agents are aware of 4th amendment protections? I’d be pretty annoyed being caught up in a La Migra vehicle stop in New England, yet all of NE except the northwest corner of Massachusetts is within 100 miles of an external border. (Yes, I know, its Massachusetts and they deserve it, good and hard. I don’t.)

      • 0 avatar

        Lawmaking power should be reserved for a dedicated lawmaking body.

        If a regulation will have the force of law, it should be considered a law and be created accordingly.

        Enough of delegating lawmaking power to regulatory agencies.

    • 0 avatar

      dejal1, that guy in TX is going to lose his suit due to National Security Laws (for what benefits the many, like Eminent Domain, where property is seized if its use benefit the many.)

      My #3 son is a Supervisory Patrol Agent in South TX and such complaints are not new. Over the years he has told me some of the strangest stories that have happened to the Border Patrol before it became CBP. These days enforcement is even more ferocious.

      The guy is lucky the Feds haven’t slapped him with obstruction charges yet, but that may still come. The guy is really treading on very thin ice, as precedence would inform him.

      Plenty of precedence for such cases over decades. I remember a case where the US Military would drive onto a Rancher’s land each night with a truck-mounted radar unit to track illicit airplane flights and drug smuggling across the TX-NM border with Mexico.

      Yeah, or deploy the US military alongside the Border Patrol to patrol private property at night. In one such case a young boy in TX was shot to death for firing his rifle in the direction of the patrol. The boy thought the patrol were rustlers trying to steal the animals he was herding.

      In each such case some accommodation is made if the plaintiff can clearly demonstrate that they were damaged or legally injured by the actions of the US gov’t. If the camera did not interfere with the guys life, unless he’s growing illegal marijuana, he is lucky if they don’t charge him with theft of gov’t property.

      So more often they lose and get stuck paying court costs too.

      • 0 avatar

        If your property isn’t fully fenced off, you can’t really complain. It’s fair game for trespassers, cops without warrants, code enforcement, repo men, etc.

        • 0 avatar

          Or we could have common sense laws that don’t allow cops to roam in people’s yards looking for beer drinkers?

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah, but how much fence do you need?

          A full stockade, the ever-classy chain link, or just some hot pink construction tape on sticks to show the world it’s your place?

          • 0 avatar

            Most jurisdictions won’t allow for “fully fenced” properties anyway.

          • 0 avatar

            ajla, El Paso, TX, allows fully fenced properties.

            My daughter’s house in West El Paso is completely fenced in with a 7ft wrought iron fence in the front and a 6ft cinder-block wall around the sides and back of the house.

            But then, that is El Paso, TX, home of the brave and gateway for many illegal aliens who want to be free in the land of opportunity.

      • 0 avatar

        Somewhere, the founding fathers are weeping.

        • 0 avatar

          I don’t think they’d cry. Crying is what modern people do.

          The Founding Fathers would be making fiery speeches and picking up guns.

          • 0 avatar

            Takin’ care of business, every day…

          • 0 avatar

            During the times of the founding fathers it was understood that everyone coming to America was tied to everyone else trying to make a go of it as they built America.

            There was no crying, weeping, b!tchin’ or complainin’. Just like there is no crying in baseball.

            There were only people pulling together, helping each other out in times of need and times of pain and hardship.

            And there was a lot of celebration.

        • 0 avatar
          Hoon Goon

          And I weep with them. Welcome to the USSA.

  • avatar

    You have no freedumb.

  • avatar

    It makes me think of some of the “dumb laws” that were on the books.

    In certain parts of Ohio it was legal to have sex in a parked car as long as it was on your property.

    Or a town where patent leather shoes were illegal for women to wear because “reflections” and someone might see something.

    As comedian Ron White said in his routine about being thrown out of a bar and then having a cop charge him with being “drunk in public”. “I WANTED to be drunk in a BAR, (pointing to the bouncer) HE threw me out into PUBLIC.”

  • avatar

    I’m not keen on the recent spate of “knee bone’s connected to the leg bone” type of laws. A recent absurd application occurred when an obese police officer attempted to climb a fence in pursuit of a suspect. The corpulent cop vapor-locked and ended up in the coronary care unit, the suspect was subsequently charged with assaulting a police officer. That’s risible. There was no intent. Stop the insanity.

  • avatar

    If there’s a policeman on my private property he better have a god damned warrant.

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