It's Looking Like Virginians Won't Get a Chance to Legally Drink and Drive at Home

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
it s looking like virginians won t get a chance to legally drink and drive at home

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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3 of 38 comments
  • Sub-600 Sub-600 on Mar 03, 2018

    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.

  • Ricky Spanish Ricky Spanish on Mar 05, 2018

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

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂