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Understanding the DUI Exceptions for Parking Lots and Private Roads

You were sitting in a parked car in the residential lot of your building, when a police officer arrived and asked you a few questions. You were nervous, so he asked you to take a breathalyzer test. You were arrested, despite your assurance that you were not driving and didn’t plan to be—but a better defense may have been that you were in a private parking lot.

Private Parking Lots Are an Exception in DUI Cases

Under Virginia law, any person who is in operation of a motor vehicle upon a highway while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs may be arrested for DUI. The word “operation” includes sitting in the driver’s seat—but the word “highway” has often been contested in court.

The root of the law is that no driver should place others at risk when driving intoxicated, so any public roadway used by a drunk driver is legal grounds for arrest. Any area that is designated as private or does not have public access could potentially be a “loophole” for DUI arrests, including:

  • Private parking lots. Most parking lots are considered public, such as those that are attached to shopping centers or other businesses. However, private parking lots that have signs saying Private Property, No Trespassing, or No Soliciting indicate that the area is not a public roadway, and may be a sound basis for a DUI defense.
  • Restricted access. There may be an exception a DUI charge if the driver is arrested in a parking lot or driveway that does not have ready access to the public, such as if it is blocked by a wall, gate, or fence that prevents unauthorized entry.
  • Private roads. Some roads, lanes, and driveways that are on private property can be excluded from DUI law in Virginia, but the rules are highly convoluted. For example, private roadways that are on government land, such as parking lots of government buildings or roads through a military base, are still considered public highways.

What if I Was Arrested on Private Property?

If you were arrested while you and your vehicle were on a private road or parking lot, you should speak with an experienced DUI attorney immediately. Call the Easley Law Firm today at (888) 386-3898 to find out if your circumstances could get your case dismissed.

Darwyn L. Easley
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Attorney and Counsellor at Law

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Easley Law Firm

  • 10521 Judicial Drive
    Suite 205

    Fairfax, VA 22030
  • Phone: 703-865-6610
  • Fax: 703-842-6101
  • Toll Free: 888-386-3898
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