Definition of Driving in Salisbury DUI Cases
While a person cannot be charged with a DUI, if they were not driving, it is important to realize that driving, as defined by Maryland law, is a very expansive term. The transportation code defines driving as either driving, operating, moving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle. That definition is much more expansive than what most people think and as a result it is important to be aware of all of the possible situations which could result in a DUI charge, and for an individual to work with a Salisbury DUI lawyer, if they are in fact charged.
What Constitutes ‘Driving’
Under the legal definition, a person could be considered driving if the vehicle was parked but the keys were in the ignition and they were in the driver’s seat. That, potentially, could meet the definition of driving. It is also important for them to realize that they can be charged with driving under the influence even if the officer doesn’t see them behind that wheel. This happens very frequently.
For example, it is possible that someone could be pulled over to the side of the road and a police officer could arrive at a point where they are no longer in their vehicle. It is certainly possible that the prosecutor could argue that the individual was driving, at one point, because how else did the car get there and who else, other than the person standing by the car, would have been driving? Based on the legal definition, then, it is very easy for someone to get charged with a DUI. It is quite possible that they could get charged even if they are not found behind the wheel of the car.
Defining Driving in a Salisbury DUI
Driving, as actually defined by statute, is in the Transportation Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, and that is the definition that will control what happens in court. To drive, as defined by the Transportation Article, means to drive, operate, move or be in actual physical control of a vehicle. That is a very expansive definition of drive. This can include if someone has parked their vehicle and turned it off but are still behind the wheel, and are still in the driver’s seat. That person can technically still be considered to be driving under Maryland law.
DUI Charges in Parking Lots or Driveways
An individual does not necessarily need to be driving on the road to receive a DUI charge in Salisbury. Under the transportation article in Maryland, the rules of the road including the laws about DUI, apply on highways, but they also apply on any private property that is used by the public in general or to any property that is owned by or under the control of the state and is used by the public in general.
In addition, it is important for people to understand that they could be potentially convicted of a DUI even if they are not on a state roadway. People have been convicted of drunk driving in Salisbury even if they were in a parking lot. If they are still in the parking lot of the bar, for example, that would be considered a DUI because that parking lot is used by the public in general.
People are even arrested for a DUI in their own driveway. Even if they do not notice a police officer until they are getting out of their car at home, that police officer may have been observing them well before they got to their driveway.
Law Enforcement Patrols
Police officers will pay a lot of attention to the parking lots that are near bars and restaurants, especially towards the end of the evening when they know that those bars are shutting down and they will look to see cars that are leaving the bars and they will wait to see if the driver violates any sort of traffic law that would give the officer a legal basis to pull the car over.
Under the Maryland law, it is completely appropriate for a police officer to do this. So long as the police officer has a legally sufficient basis to pull the car over, then they can do that even if the whole reason that they want to do it is to investigate for a DUI. Therefore, an officer can pull a car over if a car failed to stop at a stop sign or changed lanes without using the turn signal when the turn signal is required, sped or even went under the posted speed limit if it is hindering the flow of traffic.
Those are all different reasons why a police officer could pull a car over, even if the officer really wants to investigate further to check impairment. A person may be driving the vehicle fine, but if there is an equipment violation on the car, that is another completely legitimate reason for a police officer to pull the car over. DUIs can start with something as simple as a malfunctioning tail light.
Can a Passenger Be Charged With a DUI?
It really depends on the facts and what the officer finds when he or she is investigating. It’s possible, for example, that a police officer could get to the scene of the car and everybody is outside of the car and nobody is admitting to being the driver. In a situation like this, it is possible that multiple people could get charged. Under the definition of driving and the current case law in Maryland, it’s possible that a passenger could get charged if he or she is the only person there when the officer arrive. Because driving doesn’t necessarily mean that the state has to prove that somebody observed you in the driver seat driving the car.
If an officer arrives and finds the car pulled over on the side of the road and the only person in it is sitting on a passenger seat, the officer could infer that the person that’s in the passenger seat actually was the driver and they just moved their position in the car. And so, it’s quite possible in that scenario that a passenger could get charged with a DUI.