A crackdown on underage drinking and driving
One teenager is sitting on the front porch about to drink a can of beer. Another is driving down I-95 with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit.
If caught, which teenager would receive a harsher punishment? The one on the porch, according to current state law.
Members of the General Assembly recently voted to correct that disparity and increase the penalties for underage drinking and driving.
In Virginia, possession of alcohol by someone under 21 is a Class 1 misdemeanor – a crime punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
The section of the Virginia Code dealing with underage drinking and driving makes no mention of a misdemeanor. It simply states:
“It shall be unlawful for any person under the age of 21 to operate any motor vehicle after illegally consuming alcohol … A violation of this section shall be punishable by forfeiture of such person’s license to operate a motor vehicle for a period of six months from the date of conviction and by a fine of not more than $500.”
During the General Assembly’s recently concluded session, lawmakers passed legislation that will make underage drinking and driving a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The assembly passed two identical bills on the subject: Senate Bill 770, proposed by Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke; and House Bill 1407, sponsored by Delegate Bill Janis, R-Glen Allen.
Both bills won unanimous approval in the House and Senate and have been sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell to be signed into law.
The measures offer “zero tolerance” for underage drinking and driving: They would punish any driver under 21 who has a blood alcohol content of 0.02 or higher. (A BAC of 0.08 is considered legally intoxicated.)
Under the legislation, young people convicted of underage drinking and driving must forfeit their license to operate a motor vehicle for one year and either pay a mandatory minimum fine of $500 or perform 50 hours of community service.
Marsden said opponents of underage drinking have been trying to pass such a measure for years. But he said there were concerns that it might violate the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. (Under that law, states could lose certain federal funding if they arbitrarily criminalize “status offenses” – offenses based on a person being underage. The goal of the act is to minimize the number of young people sent to jail for nonviolent crimes.)
However, Marsden said federal officials assured him that this wouldn’t be a problem and that Virginia wouldn’t lose any funding if it cracks down on underage drinking and driving.
After he shared this information with his colleagues, Marsden said, the passage of SB 770 “went very smoothly.”
Alcohol awareness groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving view SB 770 and HB 1407 as a positive step.
Christopher Konschak, the program manager for the Virginia branch of MADD, said he hopes the new law will change some of the decisions teenagers make.
“We want young folk to look hard at what they are doing,” Konschak said. “We don’t want them in jail.”
According to MADD statistics, 28 percent of fatal traffic crashes involving teen drivers are alcohol-related.
Kurt Gregory Erickson, president of the Virginia-based nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program, also praised the legislation.
“Virginia lawmakers’ reaffirmation to crack down on drinking and driving teens is not only welcomed but needed,” Erickson said. He cited government statistics showing that more than one in 10 drunken drivers killed in Virginia in 2009 were under 21.
“What this law will mean come July 1 is that teens driving in Virginia with virtually any amount of alcohol in their systems will lose their license for a year and be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor,” Erickson said.
To track or comment on the legislation against underage drinking and driving, visit: http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2011/sb770 or http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2011/hb1407.
Citizen Staff Reports 12/15/2014
CVWMA curbside recycling collection and trash collections will have a one day delay in collections Dec. 25-26 and Jan. 1-2. There will be no collections on Dec. 25 or Jan. 1.
Curbside recycling collections Monday through Wednesday will be on regular schedule. Red Thursday and Red Friday curbside recyclers will have a one day delay in collection services Dec. 25-26. Blue Thursday and Blue Friday curbside recyclers will have one day delay in collection services Jan. 1-2. Containers should be placed at the curb by 7 a.m. on collection day. All Friday collections will take place on Saturday. > Read more.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) will host a candlelight vigil of remembrance and hope Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the University of Richmond, outside the Cannon Chapel. The public is invited to attend and join MADD to honor victims of impaired driving crashes, while helping to remind the community to be safe during the holidays. > Read more.
Among participants at the Seventh Annual Coordinators2Inc Golf Tournament and awards luncheon Oct. 3 were (from left) Rebecca Ricardo, C2 Inc executive director; Kevin Derr, member of the winning foursome; Sharon Richardson, C2 Inc founder; and Frank Ridgway and Jon King, members of the winning foursome.
Held at The Crossings Golf Club, the tournament will benefit placement of children from Virginia's foster care system into permanent families through Coordinators2. > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
Several holiday performances take place this weekend in Henrico including “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Theatre IV on Tour’s “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” – both at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. The Central Virginia Masterworks Chorale will perform Vivaldi’s “Gloria” at River Road Church, Baptist and the Virginia Repertory Theatre will present “Santa’s Christmas Miracle” at the Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn. A fun annual tradition, now in its 14th year, will be at SkateNation Plus in Short Pump – Chabad of Virginia’s Chanukah on Ice. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
One of the most unique holiday traditions in Henrico, the James River Parade of Lights, takes place tomorrow. The viewing spot in Henrico will be at Osborne Park in Varina. Another annual event in the east end is the Eastern Henrico Holiday Extravaganza, taking place this year at The Armour House & Gardens and the Dabbs House Museum. In the West End, the Glorious Christmas Nights’ production of “Under the Same Stars” at West End Assembly of God will conclude its run on Sunday. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
- More News
Dec. 18, 2014Click here to read the print edition.
- More Entertainment
- More Obituaries
- More Community
- More Opinions
- More Sports
ClassifiedsMedical Alert for Seniors - 24/7 monitoring. FREE Equipment. FREE Shipping. Nationwide Service. $29.95/Month CALL Medical Guardian Today 888-709-2147
CalendarChabad of Virginia will host the 14th annual Chanukah on Ice, a community event from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at SkateNation Plus, 4350 Pouncey Tract Rd. There will be… Full text