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January 04, 2011  |   Comments (5)   |   Post a comment

Loophole in bus passing law targeted

A Virginia legislator has introduced a bill that would add a missing word to the state's regulation on stopping for school buses.Photo by Barry Johnson

A Virginia legislator has introduced a bill that would add a missing word to the state's regulation on stopping for school buses.

Photo by Barry Johnson

RICHMOND, Va. — One missing word in Virginia’s regulation on stopping for school buses allowed a motorist to recently avoid being convicted.

Now a state legislator has introduced a bill that would add “at” to fix the law.

As first reported by the Washington Post, the trial of 45-year-old John Mendez, who drove past a stopped school bus, ended with a judge acquitting him after Mendez’s lawyer pointed out the error in state law. It reads:

“A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.”

As the Post reported, an “at” was deleted when the law was amended in 1970. So, technically, it says that you have to stop a stopped school bus rather than stop at a stopped school bus.

“He can only be guilty if he failed to stop any school bus, and there’s no evidence he did,” Judge Marcus Williams said in Mendez’s trial.

On Dec. 7, Virginia Delegate Scott Surovell pre-filed a bill that aims to eliminate the loophole by plugging in the missing “at.”

“The now corrected phrase ‘at any school bus’ … gives the sentence, and the law, its intended meaning,” the bill summary says.

Surovell told the Ford Hunt Patch that "the entire episode demonstrates why it is very important for all of us to be very careful in how we write our laws and do our jobs. Two letters can put children's lives in danger."

At press time, committee referral for the legislation was pending. The Virginia General Assembly's 2011 regular session is set to convene on Jan. 12.


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Read more about: stop arm running/illegal passing

Ridiculous legal gibberish, and frivolous. The intent of the law is clear. This is happening way too often in school systems as well as with elitist judges and unsavory lawyers in the courts haggling over a word or some other technical call rather than enforcing the sprit of the law. How hard is it to hold accountable based on the obvious while also making a minor correction? Too many criminals escape being held accountable over such ridiculous rulings judges get themselves involved in. I believe even criminal evidence unlawfully obtained remains evidence that ought to be allowed while also not denying some disciplinary response toward those that made whatever the alleged technical violation. These are separate issues. Evidence is evidence and technicals are technicals, both ought to be observed.

jkraemer    |    Jan 05, 2011 01:57 PM

This is a problem across the country. Laws can be written well, but lawyers are paid to find a way to get their clients vindicated. If states could find a way to make KEEPING a drivers license a direct result of following traffic laws then drivers might want to behave behind the wheel. Imagine that!

Jack    |    Jan 05, 2011 07:00 AM

Looks like someone got payed off. The legal system is brook. If for any reason a car passes a school bus with the red loading lights on. In my book that is attempted murder! I don't care what state you are in! Ken Winters

Ken Winters    |    Jan 05, 2011 05:32 AM

Disregard my earlier comment about the boy that was killed as I was confusing it with another similar case, however, my sentiments about the slick atty and spineless judge remain. The intent of the law is clear!

T Bentz    |    Jan 04, 2011 03:47 PM

What an injustice to the family of the killed boy that Mr Mendez "got off" on a technicality. Leave it to a slick attorney and spineless judge!

T Bentz    |    Jan 04, 2011 03:40 PM

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