Sometimes, when you least expect it, things can go wrong pretty quickly in the General Assembly.

Del. Marion Van Landingham (D-Alexandria) was casually explaining to the House why police in her city are having trouble making drinking in public charges stick in court.

Judges are throwing the cases out because there's no proof the liquid is really alcohol, Van Landingham said, adding that her bill would presume a liquid is alcohol in such cases.

"If it smells, looks and taste like an alcoholic beverage, it is," Van Landingham said.

Unfortunately for Van Landingham, her bill caught the attention of Del. Theodore V. Morrison (D-Newport News), a defense lawyer and acknowledged master of killing bills that receive his disfavor.

"I just think it's silly to put this kind of thing in the law," Morrison said, explaining the constitutional risks of presuming something in a criminal case. Besides, he said, what about a person with a bottle of cough syrup with alcohol in it. Would that person be guilty? He wondered why the Alexandria police couldn't just take the seized goods to court.

In seconds, Morrison had finished his speech and the House, in a voice vote, struck down the bill, leaving Van Landingham shaking her head.