Is It True You Can Be Arrested For DUI Even If You Were Sitting In A Stationary Vehicle?

Posted on: 19 August 2017

When a person is arrested for a DUI, it's typically because they were driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In some cases, though, you can be picked up for DUI even if the vehicle is stationary and you're sitting in the driver's seat. Here's this unfortunate turn of events can come about.

Physical Control

Many states have gotten fairly aggressive about stopping people from driving while intoxicated and expanded DUI laws to let officers also arrest people who appear to be in control of a vehicle while under the influence, even if that vehicle is not moving or turned on. This means that if you're found sitting in the driver's seat of your car or truck and you appear to be intoxicated, police can cite you for DUI and take you to jail.

This happened to a Wisconsin man several years ago. While waiting for a friend to drive him home, the man fell asleep in the driver's seat of a vehicle. The vehicle had been turned on and his hand was resting on the steering wheel. The police assumed he had been driving or attempted to drive intoxicated and arrested him.

While he was convicted of DUI in the lower court, his conviction was reversed on appeal because the court didn't feel that having a hand on steering wheel of a stationary vehicle counted as driving.

Unfortunately, not all states are this forgiving. Merely sitting in the driver's seat is cause enough to be arrested and charged with DUI.

Legal Consequences

Although you may be charged and convicted with DUI for appearing to have physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated, you may not be hit with the same consequences. In some states, this type of case would only be considered a misdemeanor that wouldn't have the same penalties as a regular DUI. In other states, you may face a less severe version of the state's regular DUI penalties.

Still, some states have safe harbor laws that take the driver's intent into consideration when determining whether a conviction is warranted. If you can show you had no intention of driving (i.e. you were sleeping or the keys were in your pocket), the court may convict you of a lesser crime or throw out the charges altogether.

It's unfortunate that even the most innocuous behavior can land you in legal trouble. If you're arrested for a DUI, contact an attorney as soon as possible for assistance.