In 2009, Jean Patel Enriquez was arrested in Alexandria, Virginia for DWI. When he was arrested he was sleeping behind the wheel of his vehicle. The officer who arrested Enriquez couldn’t remember if the keys were in the “on” or “off” position. He could only remember that the radio was running.
Cases in Virginia had previously established that a person couldn’t be convicted of DWI unless the officer knew the key was in the “on” position. In a 1992 case a DWI conviction was overturned when the officer testified he wasn’t sure where the key was.
However, Mr. Enriquez wasn’t quite so lucky. He was convicted of the DWI in the lower courts. The lower courts found him guilty of drunk driving. Mr. Enriquez has now appealed his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
Mr. Enriquez’s lawyer points out that it is inherently unfair to find his client guilty given the circumstances of the case and the Virginia DWI laws at the time. They argue that while the courts have the ability to define laws and reshape meanings, it is unfair to change the laws after someone commits an act. Mr. Enriquez had a legitimate belief that under the law his actions were proper. It is only the courts new ruling that made the actions illegal.
Regardless of how the Supreme Court rule, or even if they agree to hear the case, Mr. Enriquez has unwillingly changed Virginia DWI laws.