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Amended Law Drops ‘At,’ Resulting in Acquittal

Posted Dec 1, 2010 8:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Virginia man accused of passing a stopped school bus has been acquitted because an amended law dropped the word “at.”

The law as amended in 1970 requires drivers to stop school buses, rather than to stop at them, the Washington Post reports. The law 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."

Fairfax County Judge Marcus Williams explained why he acquitted the defendant, John Mendez, according to the Post account. "He can only be guilty if he failed to stop any school bus," Williams said at the end of trial. "And there's no evidence he did."

Defense lawyer Eric Clingan, who handled the case for free, told the Post he was unaware of the statute until Mendez came in to his office. Clingan said he looked at the law and "it just sort of jumped off the page at me."

Updated Dec. 8 to fix a typographical error.

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