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How far is the reach of implied consent law?

Many episodes of The Andy Griffith show featured a recurring character named Otis Campbell. In countless scenes over the show’s eight-year history, Otis, known as the “town drunk,” would arrive at the Mayberry jail significantly under the influence with the intent of finding a cell to “sleep it off.”

With more awareness of the dangers of alcohol use, especially when it precedes operating a motor vehicle, the outdated concept is anything but humorous. However, it does show how someone can take a certain level of accountability for their over-consumption and avoid harming themselves or others.

As courts are finding new ways to charge people with DUI, a divided majority dealt a blow to those efforts. Judges on Virginia’s highest court refused to extend the ever-growing reach of implied consent law.

Matthew Alexander Kim was sleeping in his parked Honda Accord in the middle of an apartment complex. Due to the low temperature during the early morning, Kim’s car was running to keep him warm. A police officer discovered Kim and forced him to wake up. According to the officer, the suspect appeared intoxicated. He was subsequently arrested and taken to the station where he refused a breath test.

Kim was convicted of refusal and lost his driver’s license for one year.

His attorney appealed the decision, claiming that the state’s implied consent statute does not apply to private property, specifically a parking lot where “no trespassing’ signs are posted at every vehicular entry point. The jurists agreed that a road not freely open to the public cannot be considered a highway, especially where signs are directed specifically at motorists traveling on that particular street.

Charges against Kim were dismissed.

A time existed not too long ago where someone under the influence “sleeping it off” in their car was considered the best option. The recent high court ruling may return that practice to prominence without serious consequences, but within certain parameters.

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