DUI in a Parked Car

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 What is a DUI?

The term “DUI” refers to driving under the influence, or operating a motor vehicle after drinking alcohol or consuming drugs that impair your senses. Every state has their own version of a DUI statute prohibiting driving while legally intoxicated, with some states having different classifications for DUIs.

Common DUI intoxicants include alcohol, illegal drugs, or over the counter drugs. The term motor vehicle may also include vehicles such as bicycles, mopeds, and golf carts.

First offense DUIs are usually considered to be a misdemeanor. However, if someone was injured due to a person’s driving under the influence, or if property was damaged, the charge may be elevated to a felony.

Additionally, a DUI may be a felony charge if the defendant has been charged with a DUI previously. In order to determine intoxication, police officers utilize some of the following tests:

  • Blood or urine testing.

Once a person has been arrested for a DUI, most states immediately suspend their driver’s license, pending the court date. Some other and more common possible penalties for a DUI include:

  • Additional driver’s license suspension, or revocation. This includes suspension of commercial licenses;
  • Fines and court costs;
  • Prison time and probation;
  • Court ordered alcohol or drug rehabilitation or education; or

Can I Get a DUI While My Vehicle is Parked?

Yes. Many people do not know that you can in fact be charged with a DUI while your vehicle is parked. However, the criminal charge is contingent upon the prosecutor being able to prove that the vehicle’s operator was actually driving while they were intoxicated.

Additionally, they must also prove that the police officer at the scene reasonably saw that the vehicle’s operator had the intention to drive, or was getting ready to drive, while intoxicated at the time of the traffic stop.

The aforementioned action is referred to as an attempted DUI, meaning you are not guilty of having actually driven under the influence, but instead you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol with the intention to drive. Criminal attempted DUI is in place because it allows the police to stop drivers before they drive, potentially preventing a dangerous incident.

Further, in many states you may still get a DUI if you were sleeping in your vehicle, but not operating it. The police may still have probable cause to arrest you for DUI if there are signs that you were driving under the influence before pulling over to sleep.

It is important to note that where you are located in the car when you were found sleeping is important to determining whether or not you were driving under the influence before pulling over to sleep. For instance, being in the driver’s seat typically gives the police enough probable cause to arrest you for a DUI under suspicion of attempted DUI.

In the interests of public safety, many courts will look at whether the driver was attempting to drive, or reasonably could have been driving, when permitting prosecution. Courts will generally consider all of the indicators that a person was about to operate their vehicle, such as:

  • Whether or not the vehicle’s lights were on;
  • Whether or not the parking brake was released;
  • Whether or not the keys were in the ignition;
  • Whether the vehicle was “operating” at the time of the police stop; and
  • Whether or not the driver was placing their belongings on the passenger seat.

Common circumstantial evidence of a DUI, meaning evidence that tends to show that the car was being driven or was going to be driven while parked, includes a warm engine or tires, or the defendant’s admission that they drove under the influence.

How Can I Avoid a DUI in a Parked Car?

The best possible way to avoid a DUI is to simply not drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs that will impair your ability to drive. The following are some other reasonable steps you can take to prevent a DUI from ever being issued:

  • Designate a driver beforehand, so as to avoid needing to drive at all;
  • If you need to sleep in your vehicle while under the influence, do not sleep in the front seat or the driver’s seat. Instead, you should sleep in the backseat of your vehicle; and
  • Do not look like you are ready to drive. This means you should turn off the ignition of the vehicle, remove the keys from the ignition, and turn off all of the interior lights.

Do I Need an Attorney If I Am Facing a DUI While in a Parked Car?

If you are facing a DUI charge, you should absolutely consult with a well qualified and knowledgeable DUI/DWI attorney in your area. An experienced DUI/DWI attorney will help you understand your state’s specific laws regarding what constitutes a DUI, as well as attempted DUI.

Additionally, they will be able to help you assert your best legal defenses to the charges brought against you. The attorney will also evaluate the evidence against you, and determine whether the field sobriety tests were administered correctly.

On top of that, if you were parked when charged with a DUI, then your attorney may attempt to disprove the officer’s determination of probable cause. Finally, they will be able to represent you in any necessary court hearings.

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