Don’t worry, it’s not a stupid question! Even though DUI refers to “Driving Under the Influence,” it is possible to be charged with a DUI offense even if you weren’t driving. DUI charges rely on two main factors:
- The amount of intoxicating substance in your bloodstream
- Your potential ability to physically control or operate a motor vehicle.
Situations That Could Get You a DUI – With No Driving Involved
Even if you weren’t actually driving, being intoxicated could result in being charged with a DUI offense in situations including but not limited to the following:
- You fall asleep intoxicated in a car. You are much more likely to be charged with a DUI if you sit or sleep in the driver’s seat of a car while intoxicated. According to Nolo, DUI laws aim to prevent drunk driving before it begins, and “a motorist who’s drunk in the front seat with the keys in the ignition is just a few quick motions away from putting the car in gear and driving away.” Judges look at practical factors while determining DUI convictions – an intoxicated person who was asleep in a back seat with the vehicle’s engine turned off will generally not be as likely to receive DUI penalties as someone who is found intoxicated while slumped over the steering wheel with the motor running.
- As an intoxicated passenger you’re involved in an accident but the police determine that you were driving or in control of the vehicle.
- You’re intoxicated and standing outside or nearby a vehicle, and police determine that evidence points to you being the driver at fault. Nolo explains that while determining whether an intoxicated person was operating a vehicle or not, judges look at factors such as whether the driver was awake or asleep when the cops showed up, whether the car’s motor was running, the location of the car keys, how close the driver was to the steering wheel, and more.
How Does Law Enforcement Prove You’re “Under the Influence?”
You could be conflicted with either a “per se” DUI or an “impairment DUI.” In a per se DUI, all the prosecutor needs to do is show that you were driving (or could be driving – more on that below) with a certain amount of drugs (including certain prescriptions) or alcohol in your system. Proving that you were actually impaired or affected by that substance isn’t necessary, according to Nolo.
Like every state, motorists in Florida can be convicted of a per se DUI for driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more. For drivers who are under 21 years old, the limit is typically much lower, warns Nolo. Unlike alcohol, there is no legal limit for the amount of drugs that can be in your system while driving, according to HG Legal Resources. That means that you can be convicted of a DUI for any amount of drugs in your system. Some states also have per se drug DUIs. In these states, motorists with a certain concentration of drugs in their systems are deemed to be under the influence.
On the other hand, impairment DUI convictions require that the prosecutor prove that you were actually drunk or stoned. Remember that like per se DUIs, impairment DUIs can refer to legal and illegal substances alike.
How Does Law Enforcement Prove the “Driving” Element
Don’t let the name fool you, you can be convicted of “driving under the influence,” even if you weren’t actually driving. The prosecution just needs to prove the “driving” element by showing you were “operating” or in “actual physical control” of a vehicle. The idea behind this law is that an intoxicated person who can quickly take control of a vehicle and drive away is as dangerous as someone who is already driving drunk or stoned. In deciding whether you were operating or in physical control of a car, the court will usually look at factors such as:
- whether the driver was awake or asleep when the cops showed up
- whether the car’s motor was running
- the location of the car keys, and
- how close the driver was to the steering wheel.
There are many more similar and equally complex and potentially convoluted situations where you might be unfairly charged or convicted of a DUI offense even though you were not driving. Due to the complexity of DUI laws, it’s critical to have an experienced attorney backing your case. If you’re facing a DUI charge of any kind, don’t hesitate to get the legal representation you deserve! Call 239-226-0888 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.
Michael M. Raheb, P.A.
2423 First Street,
Fort Myers FL 33901
Fax Number: 866-949-0888