Defining Driving in Montgomery County DUI Cases
DUI arrests occur quite often in Montgomery County. In most cases, an officer observes a traffic violation, pulls the driver over for a traffic stop and—in the course of the stop—determines that the offending driver is under the influence of alcohol or another substance. During this time, the officer may ask questions of the driver or administer field sobriety tests to determine inebriation.
Although it seems simple to determine whether someone is “driving” or not, it is actually a crucial and sometimes controversial item of proof in a DUI prosecution. Legally, someone is driving if they have physical control over a vehicle, and the vehicle does not have to be moving to constitute physical control. However, defining driving in Montgomery County DUI cases can sometimes become an area of stark disagreement between defense attorneys and prosecutors
Proving that a Defendant Was Driving
Prosecutors must prove that a person was exercising dominion and control over a vehicle to prove driving in a DUI case. This could mean that the person was in a vehicle that was moving, or that the person was stopped on the side of the roadway with the keys and ignition and the vehicle running.
In some circumstances, the person may simply be in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that was not running. Perhaps a driver pulled over on the side of the road and fell asleep in the vehicle—that might be an indication to an officer that the person was under the influence of alcohol at the time they stopped their car, therefore exercising dominion and control over the vehicle.
Defense attorneys could make arguments to contest these kinds of issues, however, especially if the driving is not clearly apparent. Driving is a prerequisite to being charged with driving under the influence or impaired by alcohol. If there are factors indicative of doubt as to whether an individual was actually driving a vehicle, that is a key point to argue.
Can a Passenger be Charged with a DUI?
It is unusual for a passenger to be charged with DUI. When an officer cannot determine who is driving the car, however, they could charge the passenger if there is a reason to believe the passenger switched seats with someone before the officer approached the vehicle. There may be witnesses on the scene who could testify that the passenger was actually the one driving the vehicle at the time the driving offense or car accident took place.
Arrests Off the Road
Individuals can be arrested anywhere for a DUI. If a person is driving a vehicle in a public parking lot, they could be arrested. Interpretation of the statute could say that a person driving a vehicle on a roadway on private property may also be considered to be driving under the influence.
Law enforcement officers may patrol parking lots near bars or restaurants looking for possible DUIs. It is a common tactic used especially on the weekends or during the holiday season. During these charges, like any others, defining driving for a DUI charge is still crucial for the prosecution in Montgomery County.
Contact an Attorney for Help Defining Driving in a DUI Case
If you are a defendant in a DUI case and a reasonable claim exists that you were not driving or in control of a vehicle at the time of your arrest, you should strongly consider reaching out to a criminal defense attorney. Defining driving in Montgomery County DUI cases could be the difference between guilt and innocence in the eyes of a judge or jury.
An experienced lawyer could question law enforcement reports and make a strong case that your actions did not constitute driving in the legal sense, allowing you to avoid a costly DUI conviction.