Drivers Can be Charged For DUI While on Private Property

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals recently held that the terminology "in this State" pursuant to West Virginia's DUI statute extends the reach of DUI laws to any individual driving a vehicle within the physical boundaries of West Virginia, even if the vehicle is driven only upon private property not open to the general public. This decision overrules a 1980 case where the Court held otherwise.

In Reed v. Beckett, Mr. Reed was driving an unlicensed ATV on family-owned farm land that was not open to the public in Monroe County. He wrecked the ATV and was injured. Tests at the hospital showed he blood alcohol content was 0.17%. He was subsequently charged with Aggravated DUI, which was dismissed in magistrate court. The DMV then entered an order revoking his privilege to drive.

On appeal, the Supreme Court clarified the meaning of W. Va. Code § 17C-5-2a(a), which has not been amended since 1983. The Court noted that "the Legislature expressed its plain intent to prohibit an intoxicated person from driving a vehicle anywhere in West Virginia, whether on public roads or across private land."

The Court's decision puts to rest any dispute as to whether a person can be charged or have their privilege to drive revoked for driving under the influence on private property. "In this State" means anywhere within the physical boundaries of the State of West Virginia, including private property.