House passes DUI private property bill, other measures

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates approved and sent to the Senate on Thursday a bill protecting people who drive drunk on their own property from facing a DUI charge.

John Shott

Judiciary chair John Shott, R-Mercer, told members HB 2183 recognizes the “right to act stupid on your own property.” It passed 97-2. A similar bill passed the House last year but died in the Senate.

In 2012, in response to a man being cited for DUI while driving an ATV on his own land, a court ruling extended DUI law to cover all private property, even if it’s closed to the public.

This bill codifies that DUI applies only to roads of the state: public highways and private roads. It does not apply to private roads on private property, and where the driver hasn’t left and doesn’t plan to leave the property.

It does carve out an exception for a driver who has just entered a parking lot or driveway or is about to leave a parking lot or driveway. Committee counsel said this prevents someone from avoiding arrest by ducking into a parking lot or driveway and claiming immunity.

Shott said the bill does not grant immunity in cases of injury or death, and doesn’t grant immunity from civil liability.

Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer

Delegate Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, was one of the two who voted no. He wanted to see the bill also exempt from immunity intoxicated drivers who transport passengers. He missed his chance to amend the bill on second reading and Shott said he could try to seek that change when Senate Judiciary takes it up.

HB 2038 was more divisive. This bill says that licensing of a profession is prohibited if fewer than 25 other states licenses and regulate it. It requires the state auditor to review the licensure regulations of professions every five years to determine if they should or should not be regulated, and if existing regulation for that profession should continue or sunset.

Opponents worried that this might endanger the public by doing away with state oversight of some occupations.

Gary Howell, R-Mineral

Government Organization chair Gary Howell, R-Mineral, said that the legislature will always have the final say in any proposed changes and no changes could be made without a vote.

It passed 60-39, along party lines.

HB 2128 allows state employees to use paid leave time to attend school parent-teacher conferences. It passed 97-2.

Members also gave initial approval to HB 2185 dealing with rescuing animals left confined and unattended in vehicles, where they face injury or death due to extreme heat or cold or insufficient ventilation.

The bill was on second reading and members adopted by voice vote the version passed out of House Judiciary on Tuesday. Adopting the Judiciary amendment was a procedural matter based on House rules. It is up for third reading and passage on Jan. 18.

West Virginia is among the states that lack Good Samaritan laws to protect private individuals, police or other officials from facing lawsuits for breaking into vehicles to rescue animals.

HB 2185 names four “agents” acting in their official capacity who may be summoned to break into the vehicle: emergency medical service personnel, humane officers, law enforcement officers and firefighters.

The agent must leave written notice in the vehicle to enable to owner to retrieve the animal. The agent may not search the vehicle or seize items unless otherwise legally permitted.

Written by David Beard/The Dominion Post 

WV Legislative Photography, Photo by Perry Bennett

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