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DUIs Aren't Just For Actual Drivers Anymore

Believe it or not, it is actually possible to get charged with a DUI even if you do not drive your vehicle. When an intoxicated person is found in his vehicle, police need only a few pieces of evidence and a breath or blood test to charge him with DUI.

Any non-driving driver can be charged with DUI under what the law refers to as "actual physical control." This means that the driver must be in or on the vehicle and have the ability to drive the vehicle. If the keys are in the ignition or are otherwise visible the driver is said to have actual physical control.

It doesn't matter whether or not the drinking individual had any intention of driving. In fact, most cases involve drinkers who were found asleep in their vehicles. The cars were parked safely off the road. In some cases the cars were running to provide heat or air conditioning.

This happens more than most of us realize. A North Carolina woman was found asleep in a fast food restaurant parking lot with her engine running. She failed a sobriety test and was charged with DUI.

Another case involved a Florida man who was listening to music in his car. He had gone out there to use the car stereo after disagreeing with his roommate about his choice of music. He was charged with a DUI when a policeman approached and issued a sobriety test. The man had no intention of driving.

Cases of non-driving DUIs are rare but still very possible. If you have been drinking and must use your car as a temporary bed, the best way to avoid suspicion is to leave the keys elsewhere. Put them outside the car under a tire or in the trunk.

Those who have already been charged with a non-driving DUI can fight it. If the car was parked in an area with surveillance cameras, defendants should try to obtain that video. It can be used as evidence that no driving took place and that there was no intention to drive.

The "actual physical control" law may seem ridiculous but it can cause some serious legal harm. When drinking, you should avoid being in your car at all. If this can't be avoided, make sure your keys are somewhere else.

Source:, "Can You Get A DUI Without Driving?" Craig Howie, 29 December 2010

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