Should you be able to drink and drive on your property? A proposed bill says yes


DANVILLE, Va. (WSET) -- Drinking and driving could become legal, but just on private property, as a proposed law is making its way through the Virginia General Assembly.

Some people are concerned about it passing in the House.

Senate Bill 308 was introduced by Republican Senator Richard Stuart to clarify that the state law against driving under the influence applies only to public roadways and that people can’t be charged for drinking in a vehicle on their property.

Existing law simply says you can’t operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated and does not distinguish between public and private property.

"I don't think you should drink and drive on private property or on regular highways, the safety of everybody is essential," said Danville resident Denise Bridget.

"I don't see any problem with it, if they're on private property, on farm land, or whatever, not on the highway," argued James Nelson, another Danville resident.

The bill first died in the Senate, but was brought back up by Republican Senator Mark Peak, of Lynchburg, who voted to kill the bill before.

The legislation has now been changed to add: “This section shall not apply to any person driving or operating a motor vehicle on his own residential property or the curtilage thereof,” essentially allowing people to lawfully drive drunk on their own property.

Senator Peake said he voted on the bill's new language because he believes property rights prevail in this issue. "Many of us have heard of instances in which a person drinking a beer has been charged with drinking in public or DUI, while cutting the grass in his own yard," he said.

"I'm really opposed to drinking and driving, but what a person does on their own land I feel like that's up to the individual to make a wise decision," said Mike Farson, a farmer with 300 acres in Pittsylvania County.

Lieutenant Michael Wallace with the Danville Police Department hopes property owners will make a wise decision.

"It's a difficult thing to predict," Lt. Wallace said. "I mean the very nature of driving under the influence, a person is not in a position to make the correct decisions anyway, that's what intoxication does to you. So to assume they are going to stay on their property is unreasonable."

The bill flew through its second and third reading and passed the Senate three days after it was resurrected.

It now heads to the House for consideration.

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