Virginia Senate Passes Bill to Allow Drunk Driving on Personal Property
The Virginia Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that will adjust existing prohibitions on driving under the influence (DUI), according to an article by USA Today. Officially referred to as SB 308, this slight adjustment will allow drunk driving at a person’s home or other personal property.
Senator Richard Stuart, a Republican from King George, was the original sponsor of SB 308. Stuart introduced the bill in January, 2018. But a number of opponents spoke out against SB 308 during a meeting of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee (Committee), including the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys, Washington Regional Alcohol Program, and other entities.
The Committee voted 7-5 to essentially kill SB 308. But Senator Mark Peake, a Republican from Lynchburg, brought up SB 308 for reconsideration during a recent Committee meeting in February 2018. Ironically, Peake had voted to kill SB 308 back in January.
After speaking with several Committee members and Waynesboro Commonwealth’s Attorney David Ledbetter, Stuart decided to change some of the language in SB 308. Stuart narrowed the scope of SB 308, limiting the impact to a person’s home or other personal property.
The newly worded version of SB 308 came before the Committee for a new vote. The Committee voted 14-1 to approve SB 308. Senator Creigh Deeds, a Democrat from Bath, was the only Committee member to oppose SB 308.
After the Committee vote, SB 308 passed its second and third readings. Then the entire Virginia Senate considered SB 308 on February 5, 2018. The Virginia Senate approved SB 308 in a vote of 37-3.
How Does SB 308 Adjust Existing DUI Laws in Virginia?
As provided in Code of Virginia 18.2-266, it is unlawful to operate a car, train, or other motor vehicle while intoxicated in Virginia. Section 18.2-266 does not differentiate between intoxication from alcohol or drugs. If a driver is impaired and incapable of driving safely, then they are guilty of DUI.
Unlike reckless driving laws in Virginia, Section 18.2-266 does not have any language limiting DUI to certain locations, highways, or roads. Historically, a drunk driver in Virginia could be charged with DUI on any road, public or private.
The language of SB 308 is simple and direct, establishing that Section 18.2-266 does not apply to driving on person’s “own residential property or the curtilage thereof.” Stated otherwise, SB 308 provides drivers with an exemption from DUI laws, but only on their own personal property. Moving forward, Virginia will only charge drivers with a DUI if they are on a public highway or road.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you need to defend yourself against charges for DUI or criminal offenses in Virginia, it is extremely helpful to seek out a skilled criminal defense lawyer. The lawyers at Simms Showers LLP servicing Leesburg, Winchester, Fairfax, and Manassas, know how to fight criminal charges and navigate the criminal justice system. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.