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Is it legal to drive drunk while on private property?

Until recently, it was illegal to operate a motor vehicle in Virginia while intoxicated under any circumstances. However, that changed earlier this year. USA Today reports that the state senate passed a bill in February stating that, even while intoxicated, you can lawfully drive on your own property. 

Originally, the bill sought to clarify that laws against drunk driving did not apply to private property but only to public roadways. However, the state senator who initially introduced it expressed misgivings that it was too broad and revised it. The version that eventually passed declares that the state law against driving while intoxicated does not apply to you if you are driving on your own private residential property. In other words, the law would protect you if you were driving drunk on your own property but not on residential or commercial property belonging to someone else. 

Critics of the law allege that allowing impaired driving under certain circumstances sets a dangerous precedent in the state of Virginia. The president of one nonprofit organization that opposed the bill questioned whether a drunk driver poses any less of a threat on private property than on a public roadway. 

On January 31st, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee initially voted to pass on the proposed legislation indefinitely, leading many to believe the measure was dead. Nevertheless, a member of the committee who had initially voted against it unexpectedly reintroduced it not long after. With the change in language, the committee approved it 14 to one, sending it to the floor of the state senate, where it passed 37 to three. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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