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Legal Review: Bill Allowing Private Property Drunk Driving Fails

By Richmond Criminal Defense Lawyer Karin Riley Porter with Price Benowitz LLP.

Traffic safety advocates in Virginia successfully persuaded a House subcommittee to strike down a Senate bill that would have allowed people to drive drunk on their own private property.

The bill, which was introduced earlier in 2018, was struck down by the panel back in March. The bill was created by Senator Richard Stuart, a Republican from King George County.

Stuart’s goal for the legislation was to protect people who might be accused of driving under the influence of alcohol if they happened to move a vehicle on their private property and a police officer drove by and initiated a traffic stop. Stuart cited a man who was accused of drunk driving while sitting behind the wheel of his vehicle listening to music in his driveway.

The bill, known as SB 308, was originally defeated by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. It was placed back on the floor for consideration by Republican Senator Mark Peake of Lynchburg in February. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 37-3.

“Facing a DUI charge in Virginia can be terrifying,” Karin Riley Porter, a Virginia DUI defense attorney, said. “You might not know what to expect moving forward as you try to fight your case.”

Once the bill moved to the Virginia House it was put in front of a subcommittee there, also called the House Courts of Justice Committee. Members of the committee heard from various advocates against drunk driving once the bill reached the Virginia House.

A Republican representative from Frederick, Christopher Collins, recommended that the bill be passed over indefinitely, which would mean it would have been killed for the legislative session. The subcommittee voted 7-0 to kill the legislation in the Virginia House.

“I think it’s good news,” Kurt Erickson told WTVR. Erickson is the CEO and president of a nonprofit group known as the Washington Regional Alcohol Program. “Its passage would have otherwise been a dangerous precedent to communicate that in Virginia, it is OK to drive drunk here but not there.”

With the subcommittee voting by a 7-0 count to kill the legislation it means that the entire Virginia House will not have the opportunity to vote. Stuart was not present for the vote held by the subcommittee.

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