Whenever people think of “driving under the influence,” they likely assume this involves being stopped after “driving” before any DUI arrest can take place. As many state laws put it, the act of driving requires willingly moving a vehicle, which doesn’t have to travel a great distance or change location. This includes as little as starting a vehicle, putting it into gear, pushing the gas, and moving the vehicle a single foot. However, the law often doesn’t require law enforcement to observe or witness the driving, with circumstantial evidence (based on inference from the facts that were present when an event occurred) often being enough.
Evidence of Driving
As to how this applies to DUI, law enforcement uses circumstantial evidence in order to determine if someone has previously been driving while under the influence. As an example, consider a driver who’s going down a highway and stops to sleep several whiskeys off. He leaves his keys in the vehicle’s tailpipe to indicate he didn’t drive in order to avoid being arrested for DUI. After the driver sleeps for an hour, a highway patrolman sees the car and asks the driver how he got to his current location, with the driver saying he realized he had to stop driving until sobering up.
In this type of situation, drivers can be charged with DUI. From the officer’s perspective, the driver is alone, he admitted to previously driving, and the vehicle is in a spot that must be driven to. With the direct evidence of the admission and the circumstantial evidence, the officer can arrest the driver for DUI.
Leaving Keys in the Ignition
On the other hand, if the driver had left the bar and proceeded to sleep in his car in the parking lot (which also served several other non-bar establishments), he would still be at risk for a DUI arrest, especially if he left the keys in the ignition to hear the radio or turn the heat on. The warm car hood, the radio playing, and the keys in the ignition would be enough for an arrest even without the driver admitting to driving and providing direct evidence. Oftentimes, when it comes to DUI, an officer’s analysis is reduced to verifying whether sufficient evidence is present to determine that an event took place. Once it’s established that such evidence exists, an arrest can be made, but it’s the responsibility of the driver’s attorney to show otherwise later.
It’s important for drivers to understand that many people try to behave responsibly by not driving once they realize it wouldn’t be safe. However, being responsible doesn’t always prevent DUI arrests, so drivers need to be sure they have safer alternatives to get home (ride sharing services, designated drivers) than sleeping it off on their backseat. It’s also important to remember that a DUI arrest doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted—you just need to make sure you have a solid DUI attorney ready to fight on your behalf.
DUIRights Support is comprised of legal writers and attorneys who are able to generate useful information about issues relating to DUI. Please use all information at your own discretion and never use the information as legal advice without consulting with an attorney.