Virginia Debates “Operating” Under the Influence Again
Virginia makes it illegal to “drive” or “operate” a motor vehicle while intoxicated. While “drive” is pretty understandable, the definition of “operate” continues to change. The last re-definition was in 2012 when our Supreme Court in Virginia said for the first time that “operate” means (1) keys in the ignition and (2) butt in the driver’s seat. Before that the ignition had to be on.
That’s still true if you are parked on or beside a roadway in Virginia. But what about if you are parked in your own driveway or a public parking lot? That issue will be decided by the Virginia Supreme Court in the Sarafin v. Commonwealth case.
To define “operation” Virginia courts have looked to the definition of “operator” in the Code of Virginia. And guess what? “Operator” is defined as one who “(i) drives or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a highway.” Sure enough, it says “highway” (which means roadway) and not driveway or parking lot.
For more information about operation in Virginia, check out http://dwimanual.com/table-of-contents/what-is-dwi/drive-or-operate/
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