February 25, 2003
Drivers Could Be Drunk While Parked, Under Senate Bill
By Deborah Baker
The Associated Press
SANTA FE Saying that state law encourages drunks to drive, a San Juan County lawmaker is promoting legislation that would exempt from DWI convictions those who are parked while drunk.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Allen Hurt, R-Waterflow, was endorsed by the Senate Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday, after amendments were adopted to tighten it.
The state Supreme Court has held that someone can be convicted of drunken driving for being drunk in a parked vehicle, even if the motor is not running and it's on private property.
Hurt's bill would exempt with some exceptions people who are allegedly drunk in parked motor vehicles with the motors not running.
Hurt says intoxicated people would be better off sleeping in their cars in parking lots or by the side of the road than trying to make it home. But the law discourages that, he contends.
"Currently, you're encouraged to drive all the way home to go for it," Hurt maintained.
If the purpose of the law is to prevent drunken driving, motorists who have the sense not to drive, or to pull over and park, should not be convicted, the senator said.
Hurt told the committee there was a case in San Juan County in which a young man sat in his car in his driveway, listening to loud music and drinking beer. Neighbors called the police, and he was charged with drunken driving, according to Hurt.
The committee didn't debate the bill before agreeing to send it along to the Judiciary Committee.
But at Hurt's request, it adopted changes to make it clear that drivers could be convicted if the vehicles were moving, if they were parked in roadways, if the drivers were trying to avoid roadblocks or otherwise elude detection, or if they had been involved in accidents.