The media circuit is abuzz with news of controversial new legislation in Virginia. The senate has recently passed a bill permitting Virginians to drink and drive - so long as they do it on private property. DUI law in many other states holds that driving under the influence is illegal no matter where the offense occurs: whether the site is private or public property is immaterial. So why did the Virginia legislature determine DUI is an exception?
In theory, DUIs are a safety issue to the public because driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs on public roads endangers the lives of others. If it occurs on private property, is there a threat to the public's safety? Virginian lawmakers ruled that the threat to the public does not exist on private property. A bill drafted by senator Richard Stuart has already passed in the senate in an overwhelming 37 to 3 vote. It will now go to the Virginia House for review.
What Does it Matter to Georgia?
As a criminal defense attorney in Georgia, why would the potential passage of a bill in Virginia matter? As mentioned in other blogs, it is important to stay abreast on the patterns, trends and innovations in DUI law across the country, not just in one's own state. States legislatures have a tendency to "peer over" at the work being done in other states. They are naturally curious as to the developments their fellow states are making and inclined to implement strategies that were successful for other states in their own. In the realm of DUI law, the BAC limit, for example, was lowered to .08 on a state by state basis. It was a legal trend, if you will. A brash legislative maneuver by one state may one day become the fully adopted norm in all 50 states. For this reason, we keep up with the legislative developments in other states.
Drunk Driving On Private Property - Safer?
Citizens have weighed in on Virginia's potential new law. The opinions collected by local outlet WTVR news paint an interesting picture of the public perception and opinion of the new law. "As long as it's on their property sure," Virginian driver Tracy Riddle said. "It's a free country. It's your right. It's your property." One Hughes Paul called it "terribly surprising." State resident Emma Bryant pointed out what may be a logistical flaw in the reasoning of the bill, "I feel like when you're intoxicated, could you really even set those boundaries?” she asked. “Like this is where my property ends, and I'm not going to go any further?” These are fair questions, the answers for which may only be established by case law if and when the bill is enacted.
The bill may provide critical leeway to those who want to "sleep it off" in their vehicle on private property. At present, Georgia law still seeks to punish motorist who were simply trying to sleep in the car after drinking because of the perceived probability they might've driven. You can be in the driver's seat, keys in ignition to keep the inside air temperature cool, and be asleep or resting when the police knock on your window and subsequently arrest you. In effect, you think you are doing something good, but you still get arrested for it. Virginia's law, if something similar were enacted in Georgia, could spare Georgians DUI charges that were probably unjustified to begin with.
Cobb County DUI Attorney
It remains to be seen whether this bill will be passed into law or if its application in real-world circumstances will prove problematic. Nevertheless, if you are charged with DUI in Cobb County Georgia, whether on private property or public, you are urged to immediately contact an experienced Cobb County DUI attorney to handle your charges and protect your rights.