A man goes to a bar, has some alcoholic drinks, leaves, and gets into his car. However, instead of starting the car and driving home intoxicated, he falls asleep behind the wheel before turning the key in the ignition. A few hours later, he is awakened by a police officer and charged with driving while intoxicated (DUI). In light of the fact that the man never actually drove, how is this possible?
State DUI Laws Vary
DUI laws are imposed at the state level and in some states, an individual can be charged with DUI for sitting in the driver seat of a car while legally intoxicated even if the car is not running. If a police officer believes that there was intent to drive or the individual refuses to take a breath test that measures blood-alcohol content, the officer may arrest the individual for DUI. This is a little-known area of the law with serious consequences.
If the driver has keys to the vehicle, he or she is considered to be in physical control of it. Therefore, the best approach would be to call for a sober ride from the bar. If this is not possible, handing the keys to the bartender before sleeping it off in the car can avoid a DUI charge even if approached by a law enforcement official.
Handling the Situation
If a DUI charge has already been levied, there is still hope. Get in touch with an experienced DUI attorney and explain what happened. Use DUIRights.com to find a DUI lawyer licensed to practice within the state and request a free DUI arrest evaluation. The lawyer may determine that your rights were violated during the arrest and will begin building a defense.
Many mistakes can be made during a DUI arrest. For example, implied consent law requires a driver to submit to a breath test or face automatic license suspension. This law may not apply if the driver is not operating the vehicle. Therefore, an individual sitting in the driver seat with keys in the ignition should not be required to take a breath test.
State DUI laws can be complex and law enforcement officials sometimes fail to meet the burden of proof required to claim that an individual was operating a vehicle. In other states, a driver may legally be charged with DUI when sitting in a driver seat of a car without keys in the ignition. By retaining a DUI lawyer, a DUI offender can learn more and fight the charge.